Britain is facing a tsunami of house repossessions as soon as interest rates start to rise, one of the country’s leading bankers has warned.
Richard Banks, the chief executive of UK Asset Resolution (UKAR), the body that runs the £80bn of mortgages bailed out by the taxpayer during the banking crisis, also said in an interview with the Guardian that the Labour government’s pleas at the start of the crisis for lenders to keep families in their homes was forcing some homeowners further into debt.
In a warning that the industry may have been too lenient with some of its customers, he said he believed a policy of “tough love” would be fairer to people facing long-term difficulty in keeping up payments on loans taken out when house prices were at their peak and personal incomes on the rise.
His warning came the day after the international bank regulator said the Bank of England, which has kept rates at 0.5% for more than two years, would have to raise rates shortly to curb inflation.
The Bank of International Settlements said the policy of the Bank of England, whose rate-setting committee is split over whether or not to increase borrowing costs, was “unsustainable”.
With 750,000 customers, UK Asset Resolution, set up to run the nationalised mortgages of Bradford & Bingley and parts of Northern Rock, is the country’s fifth largest mortgage lender. But 23,000 of those mortgage holders are more than six months behind with payments and Banks admitted the projections for the number of people falling behind on payments could get “scary” if lenders did nothing to prepare for higher rates.