Housing Minister John Healey today said that Government will keep help in place for struggling homeowners as new figures published today showed that repossessions court activity has dropped by over a third compared with 2008.

New figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) also released today show that repossessions in the last three months of 2009 were down by 13 per cent compared to the previous quarter, and 2 per cent less than the same period in 2008.

The total repossessions for 2009 were 46,000 – 29,000 less than the 75,000 originally forecast. This is around half the rate of repossessions during the last recession, when over 75,000 households lost their homes in 1991 alone.

The Minister welcomed the CML’s conclusions that lower interest rates, greater lender forbearance and Government support had all helped more struggling families stay in their homes than previously predicted and that their original forecast of 53,000 repossessions in 2010 may be a little pessimistic.

Government has tightened the rules so that repossession is always the last resort and more than 330,000 households have benefited from help and advice with their mortgage over the past year.

But Mr Healey is determined that more struggling families can benefit from the help and advice available, which is why he has extended support for homeowners and is funding the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to run local events across the country to ensure homeowners can access face to face advice.

John Healey said:

“Today’s figures show that it is never too late for hard-pressed homeowners to seek help to stay in their homes. The wide range of Government support, together with lower interest rates and greater lender forbearance, has helped keep repossessions around half the rate of the last recession and stopped thousands of families from losing their homes. I would urge anyone facing difficulties to contact our repossessions helpline or website.

“We’ve pulled out all the stops over the last year to help struggling homeowners take control of their finances, and it means thousands of families have not faced losing their homes. In fact more than 330,000 families have benefited from help and advice with their mortgage over the past year.

“I have extended the support for those who need it most, and we’re working with local advice agencies to make sure people can access the help they need – from free legal advice to, for the most vulnerable households, the backstop Mortgage Rescue Scheme.

“We will keep this support in place because we know pressures on family finances and mortgage payments will continue through 2010. To cut the special support we’ve put in place would put families at more risk of repossession.

“But it is not just struggling homeowners who are getting real help from Government when they need it most. We are also helping families to make ends meet, businesses to balance their books and are backing young people with opportunities to learn new skills. And by using the power of Government investment now to build thousands of new homes or develop new green projects the country is better placed to make the most of the recovery.”

The Government has put in place a comprehensive range of help and support for homeowners during the downturn, from free debt advice and help with mortgage interest to backstop schemes like Homeowner Mortgage Support and the Mortgage Rescue Scheme.

Over 100,000 people have gone to www.direct.gov.uk/mortgagehelp (external link) for advice, following the Government’s “It’s Your Home” campaign. Advertisements have appeared in local newspapers and radio stations in 86 repossession “hotspots” urging struggling homeowners to seek early help to keep their home.

New figures today show that in the last year thousands of people have already received help through the mortgage rescue process, with the majority of people receiving help early on. More than 15,000 households have received free advice from their local authority since January 2009, with over 1100 receiving tailored information, or referral to their lender or independent money adviser between October and December.

In the last three months, over 9,000 cases facing legal action were seen by court desk advisers, of which over 7,500 had the immediate risk of losing their home lifted – meaning four out of every five struggling households advised were able to stay in their homes beyond the hearing.

And the last resort Mortgage Rescue Scheme has helped 1200 households stop the immediate threat of repossession, with 276 homeowners having completed the full process since the scheme’s launch last year.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that claims leading to a Court order have fallen in 2009 by more than 35 per cent compared to 2008 and claims for mortgage possession by lenders between October and December 2009 were 26 per cent lower than during the same period last year. Of the mortgage possession claims that led to orders, 46 per cent were suspended.