Ombudsman announces record mortgage complaints

Newly released figures reveal that a third of people contacting the ombudsman with mortgage problems are in arrears

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The Independent Online

Last year 13,659 people – the highest number recorded – contacted the ombudsman for help with a mortgage or secured loan problem. Of all the cases received by the ombudsman where people said they were in severe financial difficulty, half involved mortgage problems.

Chief ombudsman Tony Boorman said: "Many of the cases where people face losing their home have been heart-breaking to deal with, but could potentially have been avoided. So if money is tight, you should never be afraid to ask for help or guidance. Speak up sooner rather than later, there’s a lot that can be done to help before things get out of hand.

"Consumers and lenders all have a responsibility to work together when problems arise. And though it pays to be realistic about the options available to you, if your lender isn’t listening, we’re here to give you practical, honest advice to help sort out your problem."

Figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders show that mortgage arrears fell in the first three months of 2014.

At 138,200 and 1.24 per cent, both the number and proportion of mortgages with arrears of more than 2.5 per cent of the mortgage balance were at their lowest level since 2008. 

Their figures also indicate that repossessions rose slightly between January and March compared to the last three months of 2013 but were 20 per cent down on the same time last year.

CML director general Paul Smee said: "The downward trend in the number of mortgages in arrears or ending in repossession is obviously very welcome. Repossession is absolutely the last resort, the aim is to keep people in their home and get their finances back on track wherever possible.

"Lenders fully recognise that behind the numbers, these are real households, with differing circumstances. Lenders try to ensure that all borrowers are treated fairly and sensitively. They continue to improve their practices to try to achieve the best outcomes when payment problems do occur. Combined with low interest rates and an improving jobs market, these strategies are clearly helping many households."