The number of homeowners seeking help with mortgage repayments has soared 35% since this time last year, a study suggests.
A survey of more than 300 offices of Citizens Advice across England and Wales found a 35% rise in mortgage queries in January and February compared with 12 months ago.
It follows warnings from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) last month, which predicted a rise in repossessions in 2008 owing to the credit squeeze.
“It is a worrying trend that our bureaux are reporting a very sharp increase in the number of mortgage arrears problems they are dealing with,” says Teresa Perchard, director of policy for Citizens Advice.
“These latest figures paint a worrying picture, suggesting a significant number of households are struggling to meet their most basic living costs.
“The combination of big increases in household bills, especially fuel, and rising housing costs is putting additional pressure on people’s finances when they are already stretched to the limit.”
Nearly a third of the 5.7 million new problems dealt with by staff at Citizens Advice in 2006-7 concerned debt, making it the biggest single issue they faced.
But the survey reports staff at the bureaux dealt with 215,000 new debt problems in the first two months of 2008 alone.
However, credit card debt problems were down by 9%, while problems with overdrafts were up almost 7% on the same period of the previous year.
Teresa Perchard says: “If people have debt problems they should get help straight away.
“We cannot stress enough the importance of telling your creditors as soon as you have difficulties in paying – they should treat you sympathetically.
“Get free, confidential advice from a CAB or other independent advice agency who can help you work out payment plans for your debts and explain what options there are.
“You can also make sure that you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to. You may be missing out on money that could help off-set your costs.”
020 7034 2636
Paul Bruns and Elaine Parkes
3,000 left to transfer
Record numbers of people aged 90 plus
From 3 to 10 October