The Number: 35% rise in people seeking mortgage-debt advice

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The Independent Online

There has been a sharp increase in the ranks of borrowers seeking help with their mortgage debts. Citizens Advice says the number of people coming into its bureaux asking for guidance was up 35 per cent to 215,000 year-on-year during January and February. "It is a worrying trend that our bureaux are reporting very sharp rises in the number of mortgage0arrears problems they are dealing with," said Teresa Perchard, director of policy at Citizens Advice.

These findings mirror those of other debt charities such as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, which also reported a sharp rise in mortgage-related cases. The service recently opened a new nationwide telephone helpline.

A number of factors seem to be at play. Interest rate hikes during 2006 and 2007 are still having an impact and more than one million homeowners are coming off fixed-rate mortgage deals face having to pay far more. The general economy is also slowing.

But there is a silver lining. Citizens Advice also reports that the numbers seeking help with credit card and overdraft debt specifically was down 9 per cent year-on-year. Financial experts reckon this is because lenders are becoming more choosy over who they issue cards to.

Citizens Advice says people in debt difficulty should tell their lenders straight away and get advice on putting together budgets and payment plans.

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