THE number of Scots at risk of having their home repossessed has increased sharply in the last year, raising fears of a new homelessness crisis.
Court actions peaked in 2008-9 during the housing crash, and then fell gradually until last year.
In 2011-12, the number of repossession bids reaching the courts rose by almost 30 per cent to 6,752 – or 20 a day. Campaigners say the latest rise is down to rising costs of living and energy bills, job uncertainty and welfare cuts.
They fear it will exacerbate the housing shortage, with 156,000 households already on waiting lists.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “In recent months Shelter Scotland’s law service has seen a 110 per cent increase in the number of households facing the threat of repossession by their lender, showing the stark reality faced by many.
“And with government cutbacks, higher unemployment and increases in the cost of living, even more families are at risk of losing the roof over their head. Already for some, just a small increase in monthly outgoings could be the trigger that pushes them over the edge into a spiral of debt, repossession and possible homelessness.
“It is absolutely vital that struggling households get help early. Whether you’re worried about missing this month’s mortgage payment, or are already falling behind with your bills, we can help stop things from spiralling out of control.”
The charity is concerned about the impact on children. In the first half of this year, almost 7,000 families with children were faced with the threat of homelessness, although this was 16 per cent down on last year. Each year, 22,000 children become homeless, the equivalent of 60 a day. Many are then forced to live in ill-suited temporary accommodation.
Alison McInnes, justice spokeswoman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “This is a distressing picture. The Scottish Government must work with agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau to provide people with a clear idea of the options available to them, such as debt management plans, in order to avoid facing action in the courts.
“People need to know that there are a number of agencies and charities which can work with them to manage debt and prevent worst-case scenarios.”
Rising home repossession bids contrasted with falling numbers of other types of civil court action, including those aimed at recovering debts.
The number of civil cases launched in Scotland fell by 13 per cent to just over 85,000 in 2011-12, with debt cases falling by almost 40 per cent in three years.