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Northern Ireland's Negative Equity Nightmare

Published: Mon, 3 Jun 2013
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The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial
Citizens Advice Bureaux are asking if householders in negative equity should hold on, or hand back the keys?
It has launched a survey to evaluate the impact being in negative equity has on the public, and to find out what they plan to about it.
Citizens Advice Bureaux across Northern Ireland are expressing concerns over the amount of clients contacting the service to find out what their options are in regards to negative equity.
Rachael Cray (Citizens Advice Money Advice Programme Manager) said: “Having worked with many clients on this issue, it is apparent that options are strictly limited for those who want to remain in their home, who can only hope to pay more off their mortgage to reduce the deficit. Mortgage Lenders are generally not offering better interest rates or deals to allow clients to do this, and given that many people are already struggling to pay bills day to day, few are in a position to make overpayments. Those who wish to give up the home are able to sell or hand back the keys, but still owe the shortfall which would be hundreds of thousands, forcing them to take out an IVA or petition for bankruptcy. With an estimated 35% of homes in Northern Ireland in negative equity, if all were to give up the home, 35% of properties here would be for sale driving property prices down further, which would be detrimental for the economy. We would like to see more options become available to make it easier for people to reduce the negative equity and remain in the home, reducing the burden and worry of being in this situation.
"We want to gather as much information as possible to see what people are considering doing about the negative equity, if they can afford the mortgage as it is, if their lender is working with them, and what their preferred outcome would be.”
Citizens Advice is calling on people who own a property in negative equity to take part, the survey is aimed at anyone who lives in Northern Ireland, regardless of whether their mortgage is interest only or repayment, and whether it is their main home or an investment property. The survey will ask questions including:
  • Is your mortgage interest only or repayment, and are you struggling with the payments? If interest only, could you afford to switch to repayment?
  • Have you, or have you considered handing the keys of your property back to your lender,  or asking for their permission to sell the property, then applying for bankruptcy / IVA to clear the shortfall on the mortgage?
  • Have you expressed your concerns to your mortgage lender, and if so have they offered you any of the following options?
The survey can be found at
Citizens Advice NI is urging anyone who is in negative equity and experiencing difficulties with their mortgage or mortgage lender, to contact their local bureau for advice.