Fewer lose homes for mortgage arrears

BANKS and building societies are expected to announce next Wednesday that they are repossessing fewer properties than they were six months ago but that more borrowers are building up long-term arrears, writes Maria Scott.

Tim Melville-Ross, chief executive of Nationwide Building Society and chairman of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, said he would be 'horrified' if the figures showed lenders had repossessed more than 35,000 properties in the first six months of this year.

A figure of 35,000 would compare with 38,930 homes repossessed in the second half of 1991.

He hopes the total number of possessions this year will be held to 65,000.

Mr Melville-Ross said Nationwide had been 'bending over backwards' to avoid repossessing houses by allowing borrowers to pay reduced amounts.

But it was inevitable that the unpaid interest added to the borrower's arrears. This has the effect of making the long-term arrears figures look worse, even though it will result in fewer people losing their homes.

Halifax Building Society is understood to have repossessed 40 per cent fewer properties in the first half of this year than in the last six months of 1991.

Peter Robinson, managing director of Woolwich Building Society, said the society's short-term arrears - up to six months of missed payments - fell 15 per cent in the first half of this year.

'On the more serious arrears, that is six to 12 months, we are showing a 7 per cent decrease,' Mr Robinson added.

'We took about 15 per cent fewer properties into possession in the first six months of this year than in the second six months of 1991,' he said.

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