News: Homeless fear for motivated buyers

Tue, 04 Sep 07

Some householders facing repossession are ending up homeless after selling their homes to property companies, a BBC investigation has found...

The firms, which lease the properties back to the ex-owners, are said to be imposing large rent rises. Other former owners complain they have received less than the market value for their former properties.

Consumer advice groups and housing charities said they were concerned about the lack of regulation.

Sharp rise

A Citizens Advice Bureau official said one elderly man had sold his home under such a deal for £40,000, even though it was valued at £165,000.

The investigation for BBC Radio Five Live Report found such deals were on the increase at a time when interest rates had risen five times in the past year.

The number of people having their homes repossessed in the first half of this year rose sharply in comparison to last year, according to recent figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

An estimated 14,000 properties were repossessed in the first six months of 2007, a 30% increase on the same time last year.

But while the number of people losing their homes rose, the number of mortgages in arrears was 125,000 - 3% down on the same period last year.

Mortgage repossession claims were also down slightly, although these do not always result in the loss of the home.

'Motivated sellers'

Vice-chairman of the National Landlords Association, John Socha, said he did not want to see the industry brought into disrepute by what may be seen as "sharp practice".

He said a code of practice for operators would be easy to bring in, but he did not want to see "over-regulation".

"I do understand the motivation for a lot of these people. In fact, the euphemism for them is actually 'motivated sellers'," he said.

"If we over-regulate, my only fear is it will be an avenue closed off to people who actually do need to sell."

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