Mortgage arrears fell during the first quarter of 2014

There were 138,200 mortgages with arrears of more than 2.5 per cent during the first quarter of 2014 - 1.24 per cent of all home loans, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

These numbers compared with 144,600 and 1.29 per cent at the end of the fourth quarter of 2013 and 159,700 and 1.42 per cent at the end of the first quarter of 2013.

The CML reported one in 400 mortgages had arrears equivalent to 10 per cent or more of the mortgage balance.

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Repossessions showed their usual seasonal pattern in the first quarter - increasing a little to 6,400, up from 6,100 in the fourth quarter of 2013, but 20 per cent down on the 8,000 repossessions in the first quarter of 2013.

Paul Smee, director general of the CML, said: “The downward trend in the number of mortgages in arrears or ending in repossession is obviously very welcome.

“Repossession is absolutely the last resort - the aim is to keep people in their home and get their finances back on track wherever possible.

“Lenders fully recognise that behind the numbers, these are real households, with differing circumstances. Lenders try to ensure that all borrowers are treated fairly and sensitively.

“They continue to improve their practices to try to achieve the best outcomes when payment problems do occur. Combined with low interest rates and an improving jobs market, these strategies are clearly helping many households.”