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Cautious welcome for 14% fall in Ulster house repossessions

By Claire McNeilly

The falling number of court actions for home repossessions in Northern Ireland has been cautiously welcomed by the Department for Social Development (DSD).

However, homeowners experiencing difficulty meeting mortgage payments are also being encouraged to seek advice as soon as possible.

The news comes after it emerged there was a 14% drop in mortgage cases received in Belfast's High Court in the last three months of 2009.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said low interest rates were allowing banks to be more understanding with those in debt.

“Generally, lenders are trying to extend more forbearance and low interest rates help lenders to do that and help borrowers get back on their feet,” a spokesman said.

In the fourth quarter of last year there were 807 writs and originating summonses compared to 939 for the same period in 2008.

There were 877 mortgage cases disposed of between October and December 2009.

Not all writs and summonses lead to eviction or repossession, with current low interest rates helping to stave off some of the worst-case scenarios.

“Low interest rates tend to allow some borrowers to manage their way back out again and when they get into arrears their debt doesn't build up quite so quickly so the lender can give them more grace,” said the CML spokesman.

The number of people who lost their homes in the UK soared to a 14-year high in 2009, according to the most recent data.

New figures from the CML show around 46,000 homeowners had their property repossessed during the year — the highest level since 1995.

Scott Kennerly, money advice training and development officer at Citizens Advice, told the Belfast Telegraph the organisation was receiving inquiries from worried consumers.

“Many people are in the |situation where they’re going to lose their homes,” Mr Kennerly said.

“A lot of people have drawn on the equity of their houses and are now in a situation where they can’t pay their loans back.”

If you are having problems, contact the Mortgage Debt Advice Service on 028 9024 5640.

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