Tens of thousands of homeowners are yet to respond to news that their mortgage interest support payments are about to end, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted, as the Department is accused of “cack-handed” reform.
Support for Mortgage Interest, or SMI, helps to protect homeowners who are claiming certain types of benefit from repossession, but Government changes mean SMI is being scrapped and replaced with a repayable loan.
Shocking figures reveal that 29,000 households, who are currently in receipt of financial support to help pay the interest on their mortgage, still haven’t responded to being told by the DWP that the support is about to end, AOL News reports.
Of those who have been responded, around 43% refused an offer of a loan – perhaps due to fears of acquiring more debts – meaning they will no receive any state support.
Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman, Stephen Lloyd, accused the Government of “closing their eyes” and hoping the problem “will go away”.
He said: “These lamentable figures show that thousands of people have still not responded to the significant changes on mortgage interest loans being pushed by the DWP.
“Is this because they are closing their eyes and hoping it will go away, or is it because their vulnerability means they just don’t understand what the change means? Who knows.
“What it does prove is this is yet another cack-handed benefit change by the Tories which is wholly unnecessary, and is already causing anxiety amongst some of our most disadvantaged, marginalised citizens.”
He called on the Government to “cease the roll-out before even more people end up in greater debt”.
Those affected by the change will not be required to replay the loan unless their home is sold, or transferred to a new owner and there is enough equity left over.
A DWP spokesperson defended the changes, saying: “Over time, someone’s house is likely to increase in value, so it’s reasonable that anyone who has received financial help towards their mortgage should be asked to pay that back.
“Everyone who signs up to the loan will continue to get help with their mortgage interest, and it’s only repayable if there is available equity when the property is sold.
“If people decide to decline the loan now but change their mind in future the loan can be backdated so in effect there would be no break in payments.
“We have already contacted everyone currently in receipt of SMI to explain the change but we are making sure people have time to review the documents, obtain advice and consider their options.”