Repossessions jumped to 14-year high in 2009

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The Independent Online

Repossessions climbed to a 14-year high last year as 46,000 struggling borrowers had their homes snatched back by lenders. The figures published by the Council of Mortgage Lenders yesterday marked the highest annual repossessions since 1995 and were a 15 per cent increase on 2008.

As well as the 46,000 people who lost their home in 2009, more than 188,000 borrowers were behind with their mortgage payments by the end of 2009 and were in arrears of at least 2.5 per cent of their outstanding debt.

Michael Coogan, the director general of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, said: "The fact that mortgage arrears and possessions did not rise as much as we feared in 2009 is testament to the effect of low interest rates, and a great deal of concerted effort by lenders, government and the advice sector to help borrowers to address financial difficulties when they occur."

However, the lenders' positive spin is misplaced, according to James Moss, of Curzon Investment Property, a boutique investment agent. "The downturn in the housing market has kept people in their homes," he said. "If more banks thought they could profit from re-selling homes of those defaulting on mortgages the chances are more people would be affected."

The number of homes repossessed in the final three months of 2009 was down 13 per cent on the third quarter, at 10,200. But the CML warned there will be tough times ahead, and forecast 53,000 repossessions this year. With unemployment at 2.4 million and 1,400 people losing their jobs every day, that forecast could yet prove optimistic.