Belfast Telegraph

Mortgage hell: 1,872 Northern Ireland homeowners receive property seizure orders

Almost 2,000 properties were at risk of repossession in Northern Ireland last year

The number of home-owners across Northern Ireland whose properties were at risk of repossession tripled last year, it has been revealed.

The latest figures from the Housing Rights Service showed 1,872 writs were issued by the courts to home-owners in 2010, compared to the 500-600 sent out in previous years.

And as a result of the huge hike in the number of home-owners struggling to pay their mortgages, a pilot Mortgage Debt Advice Service is to receive a £500,000 cash injection to extend it until March 2015.

Housing Minister Nelson McCausland announced the move at the Housing Rights Service in Belfast. The organisation provides specialist independent housing advice, training and information, as well as lobbying Government on housing laws and policies.

Mr McCausland urged anyone with concerns about losing their home to seek help. “Anyone who thinks they may be at risk of losing their home because of debt must take action immediately. Help and advice is available,” he said. The minister stressed that repossession should only ever be “the last resort”.

The Housing Rights Service has delivered mortgage debt advice as part of the trial scheme since its launch in May 2009 with more than 1,500 people seeking out its expertise.

Home-ownership now sits at 66% in Northern Ireland with mortgage debt now more prevalent than in recent years, according to the Housing Rights Service. The advice service is aimed at helping home-owners who are having difficulties paying their mortgage address debt problems.

Mr McCausland added: “It’s vitally important that those facing the risk of repossession seek urgent independent advice and speak to their lender to avoid losing their home and explore the options that are available.”

The pilot scheme has successfully prevented homelessness for 336 families in the province through advocacy and court representation.

There is now a dedicated phone line 0300 323 0310 for home-owners as well as a specific mortgage debt and repossession website at www.housingadviceNI.org.

The new extended service also offers home-owners a new online virtual adviser and extended contact hours to 8pm on Tuesday and Thursday.

Case Studies

Relief after threat of eviction finally lifted

A Northern Ireland couple with four children have managed to stay in their home and will increase payments in a bid to pay off a secured loan, thanks to the intervention of the Housing Rights Service.

Paul and Fiona feared they would lose their home after receiving a repossession order because they had fallen behind with repayments. The couple had missed two payments due to funeral costs following the unexpected death of a family member. They had considered handing back the keys until a adviser encouraged them to put their case in court. Fortunately the court decision went in their favour and they are now paying off any debts over the term of the mortgage and saving themselves over £15,000.



Rehoused couple selling property to pay off debt

ANOTHER couple found themselves in difficulties with their mortgage after taking out a loan secured against their home.

The lender was sub-prime so escalating interest rates meant the pair began to struggle.

Joe and Sharon felt so pressurised that they wanted to give up their home, as the stress had become too much for them.

However, the experts at the Housing Rights Service said there were other options they could consider.

Following negotiations the couple found a new home in a social housing scheme.

They are currently selling their old property in a bid to settle any outstanding debt.



Illness saw family fall behind with payments

MARIANNE bought her house outright in 2007 and secured a £30,000 loan for home improvements.

However, she became ill, was unable to work and her husband’s part-time income meant they couldn’t maintain payments. After being issued with a repossession order the pair sought help from Housing Rights Service who urged them to seek legal advice.

Eviction was imminent as Marianne’s ill health meant she had missed previous court hearings. Luckily a change in the family’s circumstances meant they could argue against the repossession. Marianne has made her first payment and is able to stay in her home. Homelessness was avoided.

(Names have been changed).

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