Government support for Home Owners

A new £10 million package of measures to support home owners who may be facing difficulties with their mortgage, is announced today by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling and Housing Minister Caroline Flint.

This package includes measures to ensure that financial advice and support is available for borrowers who may need it and includes an additional £9 million extra funding for face-to-face debt advice provided by third sector partners including Citizens Advice Bureau.

Today’s announcement will also ensure:

Expanded access to free legal representation at county courts throughout England for households at risk of repossession;

Strengthened National Housing Advice Service to provide a new comprehensive debt advice service; and

More specialist training for Citizen Advice Bureau staff and local authorities on debt advice to help families get their finances back on track.

This builds on the services already in place, backed by £560 million Government investment, such as face to face debt and financial advice, a national debt helpline, homelessness prevention work by every council, legal aid, and financial support for low income households who may face short-term difficulties in repaying their mortgage.

Treasury and housing ministers will meet consumer and debt advice groups next week to discuss what more can be done to help people who are experiencing difficulties with their debt repayments.

Meeting with the Chancellor yesterday, the 6 major UK retail banks (Lloyds, Barclays, RBS, HBOS, Abbey and HSBC) agreed to work closely with these groups to establish how best to meet customer needs, including what further financial support the industry could provide. Repossession rates remain historically low at around a third of the rate of the early 90s, but the Government wants to also make sure that everything is being done to help households so repossession is only ever a last resort.

The mortgage industry is currently working on further improvements to its support for borrowers in difficulty including those seeking to refinance fixed rate deals, so they receive early advice and support on available options. Following a meeting with the Chancellor last month, the CML and the FLA agreed to review their voluntary arrangements, working with consumer groups, and report to Government by the end of May.

As a result of that work the government wants to see best practice guidance that will ensure:

People on fixed rate mortgages are given sufficient warning before their repayments change;
banks and building societies will engage with customers early to see if they can help people who are experiencing short-term difficulties by rescheduling repayments;

Banks and building societies will provide advice to individuals on how they can access independent debt advice at the earliest possible stage; and
repossession will only be used as a last resort.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling said:

“The fundamentals of the housing market remain strong with high employment and low interest rates. But it is clear from speaking to consumer groups and the mortgage industry that borrowers may be concerned about the impact of the current market conditions on their mortgages. That is why it is vital that the Government, working with industry, offers as much support as possible both directly to those people and to the consumer advice groups who can help them in their day-to-day lives.”

Housing Minister Caroline Flint said:

“We know that some borrowers are concerned about their mortgages in the current market conditions. Some lenders are now passing on interest rate cuts and we want to see the rest follow as soon as possible. But for the minority of owners who may need support and advice now, we want to ensure it is there for them in the right place and at the right time.”

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