Negative equity relief limit raised

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The Independent Online
BUILDING societies are being allowed to give greater help to about a million home owners caught in the debt trap where the value of their home has dropped below the level of their mortgage.

Societies have been allowed to advance only up to pounds 10,000 that is not backed by property. This is being increased to pounds 25,000 per person - if payments have been kept up - freeing societies to offer schemes to allow borrowers to transfer debts to a new home. They can now also transfer a home loan to a new property without losing mortgage interest relief.

Anthony Nelson, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said the changes, which will be in operation in a few weeks, should be a 'useful stimulus' to the housing market - a view not shared by other property market watchers.

Mark Boleat, director general of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, which has been urging a change in the limit, said: 'It's helpful, but it's not earth shattering.' John Wriglesworth, a housing analyst with UBS Phillips & Drew, estimates 1.5 million borrowers are in the debt trap. 'Given continuing falling house prices, for every borrower who may be helped by this scheme, there will be thousands more drawn into the trap.'

Average negative equity is pounds 6,000.

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