Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 12:46 UK

Three-year battle to keep home

Tracey Myers with her son
Tracey Myers has battled to keep the roof over her head for three years

The number of home repossessions is set to soar to 75,000 this year according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, so how effective can government rescue schemes be in keeping people in their homes?

Tracey Myers vividly recalls the day that the nightmare of repossession took over her life.

"It was 21 December, 2005. My husband had been away working. I knew things were wrong but I wasn't sure what was wrong."

"The phone rang and it was him and he said 'I'm not coming home', and I said 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'I'm not coming home, ever'".

"He hung up and the phone rang again almost immediately. I thought it was him and answered it and this time it was the lenders telling me that they were going to repossess."

Tracey had debts secured against her home totalling £64,000. For three months no payments had been made and one of her lenders had taken the decision to repossess the home near Thurso, the most northerly town in Scotland.

Finding herself in a desperate situation, she contacted her local money advice centre. It was here she discovered that she could possibly apply for mortgage rescue and keep her home.

Rescue schemes

The Scottish government's mortgage rescue scheme was introduced back in 2003, with the aim of rescuing 7,500 households.

I had everything packed - I lived in a shell so at least if they came to evict me I could get everything out

It aims to help struggling homeowners by buying their property in its entirety and renting it back to them, or by buying part of the property and entering a shared ownership agreement.

A similar mortgage rescue scheme, covering homeowners in England was announced last September involving local authorities and housing associations. Up to £200m was promised, with the aim of rescuing up to 6,000 homeowners over two years. The scheme is targeted at households with incomes of less than £60,000 - usually families with small children, a disabled member, pensioners or those deemed "vulnerable" in another way.

In Wales a similar scheme was announced last June promising £9.5m to help families facing repossession. So far 36 purchases have been made in Wales at a cost of £2.3m.

Voluntary agreement

"It was quite simple to apply," says Tracey. "Once all the paperwork was through, they approached the lenders but they didn't seem to be able to grasp the fact that in order for them to get their money back they would have to sign over the debt as such," she says.

Empty house
The government's mortgage rescue scheme comes with strict conditions

In order for mortgage rescue to work, all the lenders owed money secured against the property have to agree to the scheme - they cannot be forced to do so.

Although it is in their interest to work with the scheme to get their money back, often, as Tracey found, it proves difficult to get them to acknowledge the scheme.

For Tracey this was the least of her problems. Throughout the application process she continued to receive letters from her lenders, charging her £40 fees and increasing the interest on her debt.

It took so long for the mortgage rescue scheme to complete that there was a shortfall on the debts against the value of the house of over £10,000.

"It was awful. I wouldn't want anyone to go through it. There is no way out - no matter how much you show people you are trying to sort things out, they just want their piece back."

Propertywatch map

And to make matters worse, Tracey was given an eviction notice, informing her that she would be evicted within 48 hours.

"I resigned myself to the fact it was going to be repossessed. I waited for the knock on the door. I had everything packed - I lived in a shell so at least if they came to evict me, I could get everything out. It was just a waiting game."

Although guidelines state that mortgage rescue should take around three months to complete, for Tracey it has been a three-year battle to get the mortgage rescue in place and to keep the roof over her and her young family's head.

The Scottish scheme has proved more difficult to implement than previously hoped. Tracey is one of only 170 Scottish homeowners to benefit from the scheme so far, although it was originally aimed at helping 7,500 homeowners when it was launched back in 2003.

Propertywatch, a new series on property prices and the downturn, will be broadcast from 11-14 May at 2000 BST on BBC Two.

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