How can we avoid losing our home?

28 May 2009

"I’m in a desperate 
situation. I am 72 years old and my wife is 68, and we still have a very large mortgage of £93,000 on an 
interest-only basis, as I had problems with my business. The mortgage has two years and eight months to run.

We’ve used up all our savings to survive and at the end of the period will not have the capital to repay the loan. I can’t see any way out. We get no help from the 
government as my income is too high. Any advice would be welcome."

Ask the Professionals:
Frances Walker, a spokeswoman for charity the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, says: 

As you and you wife are both elderly, it’s likely that you will find it hard to obtain another mortgage when your current interest-only deal ends, but there may be other options available to you.

Without knowing more about your financial position – for example, your income, whether there’s any equity in your property and if you have any other debts – it’s difficult to recommend a specific course of action.

However, you should contact a free debt advice charity such as Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS), 
National Debtline or Citizens 
Advice as soon as 
possible. They will be able to conduct a full review of your finances, looking at your income, outgoings and debts; check that you’re not missing out on any entitlements; and recommend the best way forward.

You could move from interest-only to capital repayment, in order to build up equity in your property and reduce your mortgage debts. If you explain your situation to your creditors, and produce an income and expenditure budget, they may well be lenient. Also, remember, if your home is repossessed, you and your wife are likely to be 
re-housed because of your age.

One solution may be equity release, although you will need a qualified adviser to make a thorough review of your circumstances first. Equity 
release plans – also called lifetime mortgages, home reversion or home income plans – are a way of releasing money by taking out a loan on the value of your property.

However, as you’re on an interest-only mortgage, you may not have much equity in the property and equity release companies may only offer a lifetime mortgage to people with more than 60% of equity. Many companies also refuse a loan to those who have an existing mortgage.

There are also several new 
mortgage-rescue schemes that may help you. There’s a £200 million 
government scheme, for example, which is designed to stop vulnerable families losing their homes. It has a shared-equity element to help 
householders who have experienced a loss of income and need help paying their mortgage, and a sale-and-rent-back element.

The scheme is subject to a number of eligibility tests and you should contact your local authority’s housing office to see if you qualify. Advisers at the CCCS or CAB can advise you about this scheme.

Another option may be the recently launched Homeowners Mortgage Support Scheme, which allows you to defer up to 70% of your mortgage interest for a maximum of two years. The deferred interest payments 
accumulate on the mortgage account and must be paid back when your situation improves.

This scheme is available to those suffering a 
temporary loss of income, with 
outstanding charges against their home of less than £400,000 and 
savings of less than £16,000.

Finally, you could sell your property and move into affordable rented 
accommodation. Despite the heartbreak involved in selling your home, occasionally this is the only option. It could be better than hanging on 
stubbornly, since it allows you to recover more equity from a property than if it is repossessed.

Debt counselling charities such as CCCS exist to give advice on such problems, and you should seek help as a matter of urgency.


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