Recently released statistics by housing charity Shelter has shown Wolverhampton to be the worst area in the West Midlands for home repossession. During 2013/14, a total of 1,609 mortgage and landlord repossessions occurred, accounting for one claim in every 64 households in the area.
Next worst was Sandwell, where one in 70 homes was being repossessed, and Birmingham was pretty close to this figure too. Walsall and Dudley fared better at one every 108 and every 126 respectively.
Over the whole of the area, an average of 428 homes are threatened with repossession every week. These statistics have alarmed the bosses of Shelter, who handle calls from more than 480 individuals across the UK every day who are at risk of losing their homes, as well as those already homeless.
We are hearing a great deal in the news about how the UK is bouncing back from recession and how the economy is recovering, but the reality is that thousands of families all over the country are still struggling. Increased cost of living coupled with stagnant wage increases has left many families unable to find the funds to make ends meet.
For those who are currently coping, many are treading a delicate path and only just keeping their heads above water. An unexpected event, such as sickness, death or redundancy, can often be enough to tip their finances out of balance and put them at risk of losing their homes.
For those who are faced with repossession of their home, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the damage caused.
- Get professional advice: Before kicking off any dialogue with the mortgage company or their representatives, it’s worth speaking to a charity like Shelter, the Citizens Advice Bureau or National Debtline to get professional advice on the situation.
- Discover the facts: Before a lender can take a home away, they must make it clear to the person how much they owe. Reasonable offers of repayment agreements must be taken seriously, and if they are turned down, the lender must show reasons why they have refused.
- Get legal aid: Those on a low income may be eligible for help with the costs of getting legal assistance. This can pay for a specialist advisor to attend court with the debtor, who will go with the intention of securing a reasonable payment plan and therefore avoiding eviction.
- Go to the hearing: If the debtor fails to attend their court date, the judge is highly likely to give the lender the right to repossess the home.
- Wait for the outcome: The majority of cases are settled without repossession going through, as offers to pay in instalments are usually accepted. However, if the debtor is not able to make any payments or the payments they can make are too small, the order to repossess the house may be granted.
If repossession does go ahead, the debtor can apply for a suspension for a period of time if they think they are going to be able to make payments again soon. This can be useful in the case, for example, of someone who thinks they are going to get a new job.
If the home is repossessed, the local council is charged with giving the debtor advice and support to find a new home. Sometimes they can provide temporary accommodation until something more suitable is found, or may even be able to place the debtor into social housing.