Leading poverty charity Turn2us has raised concerns about the 39 weeks that those applying for Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) have to wait before they receive it. The charity says that SMI can be very helpful to those struggling to pay their mortgage but that many of the homeowners in financial difficulty seeking its help are struggling to manage the 39 week wait. Turn2us adds that this underscores how, while there are many welfare benefits and charitable grants that those with a mortgage may be eligible for, there is very little help with housing costs for homeowners in financial difficulty.
Turn2us says that homeowners are coming under increasing pressure and points to figures released by the Ministry of Justice which show mortgage possession claims and orders in county courts in England and Wales rose in November to December 2016 compared to the same quarter last year. Mortgage possession claims (4,798) and orders for possession (2,963) both increased by 10% and 1% respectively, the first quarterly upward trend seen since January to March 2009.
This follows the increase in April 2016 of the waiting period for SMI claims from 13 to 39 weeks.
The charity says that lower interest rates have helped many people with mortgages withstand income shocks but that any pressures could push them into arrears. It says that rising inflation rates will be one such pressure.
Stressing how people struggling to pay their mortgage need help sooner, Sheena Stephenson from Darlington, who had to sell her home after losing her job, said: “I couldn't keep paying my mortgage after losing my job through ill-health. So I had to sell it as 39 weeks is far too long for anyone to wait to get help to keep their home and there is too little support to help people to keep their home.”
Emphasising the need for help for homeowners, Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us, said: “While being able to buy your own home offers a level of security, those with a mortgage can also be particularly vulnerable to losing their home if they have a significant loss on income.
“As income shocks caused by job loss, illness, bereavement or relationship breakdown can happen to anyone, it is important that homeowners in these situations are given support to stay in their home.”
Turn2us is encouraging anyone who is struggling with their mortgage or rent to seek its help to make sure that they are receiving all of the welfare benefits that they are entitled to and to check if there are any charitable grants that they might be eligible for.