Homeowners urged to raise mortgage alarm
The number of people in the UK who complain about the cost of their mortgage is soaring to record levels, but many are leaving it until they get into financial trouble before raising the alarm.
Problems are becoming so bad that lenders have been told to "get creative" and do more to help struggling borrowers.
The Financial Ombudsman Service's latest complaints data, which was published on Wednesday, revealed that last year 13,659 people – the highest number recorded – contacted the ombudsman for help with a mortgage or secured loan problem.
Worryingly, a third of these had slipped into arrears before they sought help. And, of the remaining cases, a large number of those struggling to make ends meet felt unable to say that they were facing significant financial problems.
The chief ombudsman, Tony Boorman, said: "Mortgages are the most significant purchase most of us will make in our lives, so we understand why people might be reluctant to say that they're struggling to pay for their home. Many of the cases where people face losing their home have been heartbreaking to deal with – but could potentially have been avoided.
"So if money is tight, you should never be afraid to ask for help or guidance. Speak up sooner rather than later; there's a lot that can be done to help before things get out of hand."
The ombudsman has been alerting lenders that they're expected to get creative when helping people get back on track – especially before payments get missed.
And though early signs suggest that this is having an impact, there's still more that they should do to help, Mr Boorman said.
Typical areas of complaint taken to the ombudsman relating to financial difficulties include arrears handling, charges, repossession, post-repossession problems and recovery of shortfalls.
Other problems mentioned by people in arrears included sales and advice, mortgage administration and upfront fees.