Stronger protection against repossessions needed

Jo questioned the enforcability of the Government’s new repossession guidelines

Jo Swinson has defended homeowners by calling for protection against repossessions to be legally enforceable.

The UK Government introduced a new initiative last week, aimed at ensuring that repossessions are a last resort. At Westminster today, Jo challenged the Government over the legal force of its new guidelines.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, she said:

“With repossessions going through the roof, surely we need strong protection on both sides of the border, enshrined in law, to ensure that repossession is only ever used as a last resort. Will the Minister confirm whether the changes announced to the repossession procedure are statutory or not, and how they can be enforced?”

Responding to Jo, Justice Minister Bridget Prentice did not confirm that the repossession procedure has statutory force.

Commenting later, Jo said:

“The Financial Services Authority has revealed a 71% rise in repossessions, while figures from the Scottish Courts Service show that 117 repossession actions were granted by Dumbarton Sheriff Court in the six months prior to October.

“Repossessions are spiralling, but the action that the Government has taken does not go far enough in ensuring adequate protection for homeowners. Court guidelines are no substitute for legal powers when dealing with lenders who are less scrupulous about following established repossession procedures.

“The situation is arguably worse in Scotland, where the SNP initially completely failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Alex Salmond was quick to contradict Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that Scots do not need greater protection against repossession, but he has failed to bring forward any concrete proposals of his own yet.

“With worrying reports already surfacing that banks may try to get round the Government’s new repossession rules, a statutory repossessions procedure is needed to make sure that repossessions really are a last resort.”

According to the Financial Services Authority, the number of repossessions in the second quarter of the year was 11,054, up 71% compared with a year earlier.

On 23rd October, SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon responded to the UK Government’s announcement of new protection for mortgage-holders by claiming that the Mortgage Rights (Scotland) Act 2001 already provided unique statutory protection against repossession in the UK for Scots homeowners that was better than the new regulations. Later that day, she was contradicted by First Minister Alex Salmond, who said that the Scottish Government is actively looking to strengthen the law covering mortgage repossession in Scotland.

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