Mortgage arrears up sharply with landlords hit hard…

The number of people falling behind on their mortgage payments rose sharply over the summer months, figures from the banking sector show.

Rising interest rates have put pressure on homeowners, with 87,930 in arrears said UK Finance, up 18% compared with July to September last year.

Among landlords, the number in arrears doubled in a year.

Home repossessions are rare, but lenders and charities urge people to act early when facing trouble.

Despite the sharp rise in mortgages in arrears, the number where payments have fallen behind still represent just 1% of the 8.8 million outstanding mortgages, trade body UK Finance said.

That will come as a relief during a period of tough cost-of-living pressures and steadily rising interest rates.

However, homeowners tend to prioritise their mortgage repayments, sometimes leaving them unable to pay other bills. Such circumstances are masked by these figures.

But there has now been a relatively sharp rise in arrears, as the pressure gets more intense and fixed mortgage deals expire and are replaced by more expensive loans. An estimated 1.6 million deals will expire next year, with the vast majority rolling onto much higher rates of interest.

The number of homeowners in arrears was up 7% in July to September compared with the previous quarter, UK Finance said.

One 79-year-old homeowner, who did not want to be named, told the BBC he had cut back on other costs as much as he could, but was only able to pay part of his mortgage bill each month.

“The anxiety is affecting my health,” he said, claiming that he had received slow responses when highlighting the issue to his

Talking to a mortgage lender about payment difficulties has no impact on a borrower’s credit score and their ability to borrow in the future, although missing payments or getting a mortgage holiday would have an impact.

Frontline banking staff are urging people to get in contact before a situation spirals out of control.

Donna Draper, a relationship manager at the Nationwide Building Society, has been among the call handlers hearing the concerns of struggling customers.

“No-one wants to send debt collectors to your door. Nobody wants that. We want to help you, we want to get a solution in place with you,” she said.

“But we can only do that if you give us a call and let us know [you are struggling].”

Sometimes people just need to know that you understand the pressures they have been facing, she said.

“The most difficult calls are probably those where people feel their money worries are so bad they don’t want to live any more. I often wish people would just – before you get to that stage and feel that way – pick up the phone and ask for help.”

The UK Finance figures record the number of people who have arrears of 2.5% or more of their outstanding mortgage. That covers people who are getting into financial difficulties, rather than someone who may have missed a payment owing to an administrative error, a simple mistake, or a very short-term issue.

Mrs Draper’s boss at Nationwide, director of retail Stephen Noakes, said that the lender and wider industry had seen many people being able to manage higher mortgage payments, with arrears lower than before the pandemic.

However, the possibility of interest rates staying higher for longer could cause “a risk and a concern” for the broader sector.

When arrears become so serious with no likelihood of payments being made, then a lender may seek to repossess a home. Requirements on lenders and the courts to exhaust all other possibilities have helped keep those figures very low.

However, separate figures from the Ministry of Justice, also published on Thursday, show that the number of cases in England and Wales at the first stage of the process – a repossession claim – rose to 4,185 in July to September. That was an increase of 14% compared with the same period a year earlier.

However, actual repossessions fell to a very low 622.

Tenants are not immune to these difficulties, as landlords with mortgages have been increasing their rent demands as they face their own mortgage pressures. Landlord repossessions in England and Wales rose by 11% over the same period. This process took 23 weeks for landlords, compared with 58 for homeowners.

UK Finance said the number of buy-to-let mortgages in arrears was 11,540 in the third quarter of the year, up 29% on the previous three months and double the level of a year earlier.

The trade body’s report said: “The increases in arrears are driven by the combined impact of both cost-of-living pressures and higher interest rates.

“In particular, interest rate pressures are felt more acutely in the buy-to-let sector, where landlords may not be able to raise rents to cover the increases in their payments.”

Greg Tsuman, director of lettings at Martyn Gerrard Estate Agents and president of trade body ARLA Propertymark, said: “It’s a miserable situation for landlords who are losing money, renters who are paying extortionate rents, banks who are finding their loans are in arrears and HMRC isn’t even increasing its income due to the number of landlords leaving the market. No one is winning in the present situation.”

The Ministry’s figures show no-fault evictions rose to 2,307 households, the highest number in four-and-a-half years.

Data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) shows that demand from tenants is continuing to rise while the number of landlords in the sector is falling.

It said most estate agents expected rents to keep rising, by around 4% over the next 12 months.