The number of mortgages in arrears of 2.5% or more of the outstanding balance declined to 88,200 in the second quarter of this year, the lowest level since at least 1994 when this run of data began. The total was 5% lower than in the first quarter (92,600) and amounted to 0.8% of the more than 11 million mortgages outstanding in the UK according to latest figures released by UK Finance.
The second quarter also saw a fall in the number of mortgages across all arrears bands, including those with the highest levels of arrears. In the same period, the number of mortgages with arrears of 10% or more of the outstanding balance totalled 25,200, down 5% from 26,500 in the preceding quarter. This brought a welcome end to a period of five successive quarters in which this figure had edged upwards from 23,400 in the first quarter of 2016.
Chart 1: Arrears on mortgages, 2.5% or more of balance outstanding
The number of properties taken into possession also declined in the second quarter from 1,900 to 1,800 (accounting for 0.02% of all mortgages). The total was the same as in the final quarter of last year, and is the lowest figure since quarterly data was first published in 2008.
Chart 2: Number of possessions, owner-occupied and buy-to-let markets
In line with a trend that has become established in recent data, the rate of buy-to-let arrears was lower than arrears in the owner-occupied sector, although the buy-to-let possession rate was higher. This is because lenders extend a high level of forbearance to owner-occupiers to help them overcome any period of financial difficulty and stay in their homes wherever possible.
Chart 3: Arrears by bands as a proportion of total balance
Commenting on the data, UK finance head of mortgages Paul Smee said: “These figures show that the overwhelming majority of borrowers are managing their mortgage payments successfully, and many of those who have experienced some difficulty in the past are able to recover their financial position. The recent improvement in the number of mortgages with high levels of arrears is particularly welcome.”
“Borrowers are being helped by low interest rates, but mortgage costs are certain to rise at some stage. It is important therefore for customers to plan ahead and consider how their finances would be affected in those circumstances. As ever, lenders will continue to help borrowers resolve any financial difficulty if possible, so customers should not hesitate to contact their lender if they anticipate any payment problems.”