More mortgage-holders in Bolton risked losing their homes last year, new figures show.

A charity has warned the cost-of-living crisis and high mortgage costs are putting people in danger of becoming homeless.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show 100 mortgage possession claims were made in Bolton in the year to March – eight of which led to a property being repossessed by a bailiff.

For comparison, in 2022-23 there were 79 claims, leading to 23 homes being repossessed.

If a claim is successful, the defendant will be ordered to leave the property. If they do not come to an agreement with the claimant they can be evicted, leading to a repossession.

In the first quarter of 2024 there were 5,182 such claims made across England and Wales – a 28 per cent increase from 4,035 a year earlier.

Mortgage rates remain at high levels since surging in late 2021, albeit with some rates being cut in recent months.

The figures show renters are also suffering, with a six per cent increase in landlord claims over the same period across the country.

In Bolton, landlords made 503 claims in the year to March, with 149 resulting in a repossession.

This was up from 2022-23, when there were 468.

Andrew Cardwell, Managing director at Cardwells Estate Agents said: “These statistics are really interesting as although they show that more repossession claims were made in the last 12 months, only around a third of the amount of the previous year actually made it to the point where a bailiff took possession of the property. 

“Perhaps the figures of previous years were buoyed by the court backlogs following Covid? 

“The courts were reasonably lenient for both mortgage repossessions and tenancy possession matters during, and post pandemic. In fact, the courts were closed completely for a period. 

“Although unpleasant to think about, it is not unusual that some matters would come before the court, and a proportion of those will lead to possession proceedings. 

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“These figures show though that it is not a forgone conclusion that bringing proceedings will automatically lead to repossession though. 

“In fact, lenders have to go through a defined process over a notable period of time, before matters can be brought before the courts.

“Regarding the tenancy statistics specifically, sometimes when a lease has come to an end and the landlord wants their property back, perhaps to sell it, or move back into it, they will have no alternative to seek possession through the courts, if the tenant does not exit at the appropriate time. 

“Again, this is unpleasant, but does have to happen in some cases.

“Perhaps the lack of supply of new social housing and the shrinking volume of private landlords providing alternative property to the rental market plays a part in this, as there are fewer rental properties for those tenants being asked to leave at the end of their lease to go to, so they need to stay in situ for as long as possible while they find alternative housing.”

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: "We are concerned about the number of people who are at risk of becoming homeless.

"With the cost-of-living crisis and high interest rates, many are struggling with rent and mortgage payments and are at risk of losing their homes."

He cautioned legal aid is the only hope for many, but "remains out of reach", with more law firms no longer offering advice.

StepChange is a charity that offers advice and support for those in arrears with their mortgage or rent.

Policy manager Jonathan Chesterman said: "Rent or mortgage payments are priority bills, so if you are in arrears with these payments, they should always be addressed before any consumer credit debt."

He said it's "really important" to let your lender or landlord know as early as possible if you fear you might fall behind on payments.

"Mortgage lenders have a regulatory responsibility to treat borrowers fairly, offering support and forbearance for people who are in difficulty," he added.

A Treasury spokesperson said: "Interest rates are high across the developed world as economies work to tackle high inflation and the UK is no different.

"While it is welcome news that we have met the pledge to halve inflation, we know many people are continuing to struggle.

"Anyone struggling with their mortgages should contact their lender, and where relevant, consider the flexibilities in our Mortgage Charter, which can make it easier to manage monthly repayments and gives extra protections against repossessions."

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