Thursday, February 26, 2009

Don’t Lose Your Home For a Thousand Pound Debt

Following the credit crunch the government has called for protection against people losing their homes, and said that turning families out of their homes should be a last resort. So it beggars belief to learn that you could be forced to sell your house for as little as one thousand pounds of debt as a loan or on a credit card. All that is required is a ‘charging order’ to make this happen.

The use of charging orders, first introduced in 1980 to enable creditors to force borrowers to sell their house if they can’t pay off their debt any other way, has increased by 100 per cent over the past couple of years. That is a massive increase in their use, and of course equates to a massive increase in the number of people losing their homes.

Under the revised terms of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, banks would not need a County Court judgement to force someone to sell up in order to repay their debts. Even if the home owner had got official agreement for a repayment schedule through the courts and were adhering to it, the banks would still have the power to force a sale.

The new measures were devised to stop people arranging low monthly repayments and freezing their interest, and then selling their house anyway, thus cannily saving on the loan interest. But the majority of people who have negotiated a repayment schedule and are making regular payments as required just want to hang onto their homes, and they could still be at risk of this draconian law.

Although the revision had received Royal Assent, the Ministry of Justice has decided not to go ahead with the new terms by the time being. But it is not all good news for borrowers because the revision would also have decreed a minimum limit of debt due before a sale could be enforced, and that has also been put on hold.

So that is why it could happen that someone is forced to sell their house to cover as little as 1000 pounds of unsecured debt.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice admitted that, although the revisions to strengthen the Act had been held back to protect borrowers, it was possible that some people would have to sell up to repay fairly small debts.

The Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said, “No one should be allowed to lose their home simply because of a credit card debt. More needs to be done by the government to ensure that lenders simply do not act overzealously, and only take possession of properties as a last resort. The fact that banks can now kick people out of their homes for not keeping up with their unsecured debts is very worrying.”

The Citizens Advice Bureau also said the Act would make it ‘easier for creditors to get their money'. However they would not comment on the Act itself as the minimum limits for charging orders had not yet been set.

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