The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) urges struggling homeowners to seek help sooner rather than later, after dealing with a record number of calls to its helpline last year.
According to figures released by the FOS today, they took a record 13,659 calls about mortgages. A third of people contacting them with mortgage problems were already in arrears - suggesting that many people find it difficult to ask for help from their lender.
Four out of ten mortgage cases the FOS dealt with were from people struggling with their repayments, with increasing numbers of these people in what the ombudsman calls “debt denial” - and many concerned about the consequences if they told their lender they were struggling to make the repayments.
The FOS upheld around a third (30%) of all mortgage complaints, but in some cases the customer wanted something that was unrealistic - for example debt to be completely written off or repayments suspended indefinitely.
The ombudsman has been working with lenders to encourage them to help customers get back on track before they start missing their repayments.
Chief Ombudsman, Tony Boorman, commented on the figures:
“Mortgages are the most significant purchase most of us will make in our lives, so we understand why people might be reluctant to say that they’re struggling to pay for their home.
“Many of the cases where people face losing their home have been heart-breaking to deal with – but could potentially have been avoided. So if money is tight, you should never be afraid to ask for help or guidance. Speak up sooner rather than later, there’s a lot that can be done to help before things get out of hand.
“Consumers and lenders all have a responsibility to work together when problems arise. And though it pays to be realistic about the options available to you, if your lender isn’t listening, we’re here to give you practical, honest advice to help sort out your problem.”