Tenancy switch saves a home: Many lenders are cooling to mortgage rescue schemes, reports Vivien Goldsmith

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The Independent Online
JOSIE CARTWRIGHT used to work in the repossessions department of Royal Life organising the arrival of bailiffs. But recently she was worried about losing her own home.

She was no longer working, through ill health, and her husband had just been made redundant, again, from his job as a car salesman.

They had taken out redundancy insurance with their pounds 50,000 mortgage when they bought a three-bedroom terraced house on moving to Blackpool two years ago.

When Paul Cartwright first lost his job he claimed on the insurance and the mortgage was paid. Before too long he was back in work.

But after eight months he was again made redundant. This time the policy would not pay out as he had not worked continuously for at least 12 months.

The couple approached their lender, Bradford & Bingley Building Society, which proposed a mortgage- to-rent scheme.

The couple and their two children, 10-year-old Matthew and James, 12, would be able to stay in the house as tenants. The house would be sold to a housing association, English Churches Housing, and they would pay rent instead of servicing the mortgage. Monthly outgoings halved from around pounds 600 a month, including the endowment policy, to pounds 53 a week.

The sale left the Cartwrights pounds 5,000 adrift, but Bradford & Bingley has agreed to accept pounds 5 a month as a token repayment. (It would take more than 83 years to repay at that rate).

Mrs Cartwright will be starting a new part-time job as a telephonist with the Department of Social Security in 10 days. 'We haven't got a penny, and quite a lot of debts,' she says. 'But at least we can stay in our house.

'My 83-year-old father lives with us and I was afraid he would go into a home and we would end up in bed and breakfast accommodation.'

The Cartwrights are one of 160 families helped to stay in their homes through the mortgage-to-rent scheme. B&B has a further 250 families due to complete the transition to tenants in the next few months and expects to help a further 500 next year.

But the other banks and building societies that embraced mortgage rescue schemes just 16 months ago have cooled on the idea.

The largest lender, Halifax, originally pledged pounds 200m to help 4,000 borrowers become tenants to enable them to remain in their homes. But only around 15 families have so far completed the transition.

Woolwich earmarked pounds 60m for mortgage rescue. But, instead of 1,000 families, fewer than half a dozen have swapped.

Abbey National has completed 35, and Nationwide, one of the most enthusiastic about the plan, just five.

A spokesman for the Council for Mortgage Lenders said the schemes were unpopular with home owners who did not want to become tenants. And they ran into problems over the links with housing associations such as rent levels, state of repair of houses and whether the properties should be valued as tenanted or vacant.

(Photograph omitted)

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