AT LEAST 1,600 families struggling to keep up with mortgage repayments have been warned they risk losing their North Wales homes this year.
New figures reveal a staggering 35% rise in the number of homeowners slapped with claims from banks and other mortgage lenders wanting to repossess their properties, in the first nine months of 2008.
So far 1,647 cases have reached North Wales county courts in the form of repossession claims, under which homeowners are warned they have six months to sort out their finances or risk losing their property.
That compares to around 570 cases in the same period last year, Ministry of Justice figures show.
The biggest jump was in Conwy and Colwyn, where the number of claims lodged rocketed by 77% to 280 up to the end of this September, followed by Wrexham where there was a 40% rise to 374 claims.
Across North Wales, 633 of the 1,647 repossession claims have so far led to possession orders, allowing money lenders to physically take back the property – although homeowners do have a right to appeal at that stage too.
Advice agencies last night urged families to act fast if they get a repossession claim as it is sometimes possible to agree a settlement or re-payment scheme with the lender.
Nationally more than 11,000 homes were repossessed during the third quarter of the year, 12% higher than in the second quarter, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
But there are also signs that mortgage lenders are being more sympathetic as the Ministry of Justice figures show 47% of all orders were suspended, meaning not all of them will lead to a home being repossessed.
The CML expects about 45,000 repossessions this year and says the number of households in mortgage arrears by the end of the year was likely to exceed forecasts.
The council’s figures showed 168,000 UK households were in arrears at the end of September 2009, 8% higher than the 155,600 at the end of June.
The National Assembly has launched a mortgage rescue scheme for Wales with a budget of £5m, but homeless charity Shelter Cymru housing officer J J Castellosaid it was nowhere near enough.
“Over the next 12 months in Wales we are likely to have at least 3,000 more repossessions and the cost of saving a third of them would be £50m.
“We are calling for a step change in the mortgage rescue plan, in Scotland for example they have put by £25m. We want more resources for mortgage rescues,” said Mr Castello.
Sally Edwards of the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux Flintshire branch says their debt service is busy and regular sessions fully booked – but they are dealing mainly with utility bill problems and she said they have not noticed a big increase yet in mortgage problems.
Both Shelter and the CAB said their message for those who think they may be in financial trouble is to seek advice at the earliest opportunity.
Growing repossessions and homelessness has Flintshire fearing it could face a homelessness crisis by Christmas.
If demand for emergency accommodation becomes acute, the county council says it may have to look at striking a deal with developers to take over vacant properties in the private sector.
The authority already has 5,000 people on the waiting list.