Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Rise in numbers facing repossession

The charity Housing Rights Service warned that Northern Ireland is 'still feeling the pain of debt and repossession'

The number of people in Northern Ireland sinking so far into debt they risk losing their home has jumped by 20%, new figures have revealed.

Judges handed out 677 orders during a three-month period between July and September - a significant rise on the 562 orders issued for the same period last year.

Nicola McCrudden, from the charity Housing Rights Service (HRS), said: "Northern Ireland is still feeling the pain of debt and repossession. There are too many people living with the threat of homelessness because they can no longer afford their mortgage commitment."

Examination of the final orders made in mortgage cases disposed during the quarter show that 414 were possession orders where householders have to hand over their property within a specified time-frame. And 184 were suspended possession orders where homeowners were given an opportunity to pay their arrears.

The figures, from the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service, also show 659 mortgage cases were disposed of between July and September - a 20% rise for the same period in 2012 (549) and a 120% increase on data for 2009 (299).

However, the number of new cases received by the High Court Chancery fell by 5% to 941, compared with the 986 for the third quarter of 2013.

Ms McCrudden said the Executive must do more to help struggling homeowners and has called for a task force to look at rising levels of repossessions and negative equity and identify ways to assist local families.

She added: " Ironically, despite high levels of repossession activity by lenders, there are very few support initiatives or debt relief options for households locally. This is not the case in other jurisdictions where governments have introduced a variety of interventions to help struggling homeowners.

"We welcome the minister's (Nelson McCausland) commitment to setting up a task force but urge him to expedite this immediately to prevent people from ending up homeless."

Last year HRS helped 1,700 households through its mortgage debt advice service. In the first seven months of this year demand has been similarly high with 950 householders seeking advice.

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