Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Mortgage arrears cases go up 64%

One woman's experience of falling behind in her mortgage repayments.

A total of 3,628 mortgage arrears were issued to people struggling with repayments in Northern Ireland in 2008, a rise of 64% on the previous year.

Figures from the court service show the number of writs and summonses issued rose from 2,213 in 2007.

The Housing Rights Service charity has started a free advice service to people who face repossession but do not have legal representation.

"Demand is already considerable," said Nicola McCrudden of the service.

"With a 300% increase in demand for our specialist debt service there is no doubt that this initiative is needed," she said.

"In essence what we aim to do is ensure that less people end up in court in the first place."

One man who went to the Housing Rights Service said the provision of a solicitor free of charge was critical.

"The last thing that people need when they're on the verge of losing their houses and they're behind on repayments is to hire a solicitor for thousands of pounds," he said.

The man, who wanted to be known only as Paul, said he got into financial difficulties when he became sick 18 months ago and could not work.

He went to court on Tuesday to continue the fight to save his home from being repossessed.

"The judge was very sympathetic. The solicitors against me were adamant the house was going to get repossessed, but the judge gave me every opportunity to try and make some sort of payment."

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