WA mortgage defaulters clamour for help

Stock image.
Stock image.

THERE has been a sudden spike in the number of West Australians seeking legal help because they can’t pay their mortgage, with 112 people asking Legal Aid WA (LAWA) for assistance in January and February alone.

That compares to 301 people last year, and only 46 people in 2013.

Director of civil law Justin Stevenson predicted defaults would continue to surge in WA this year amid ongoing property price softness, unemployment and an end to interest-only loans.

Mr Stevenson said he was concerned not just for home owners.

“Another area of concern is elderly people who are the guarantors of the loan, who find themselves subject to possession applications,” he said.

“Without assistance from LAWA, homelessness is a real consequence for these West Australians.”

LAWA has launched outreach facilities of the state-wide Mortgage Hardship Service in Perth’s worst affected suburbs – Midland, Merriwa and Baldivis.

Legal Aid WA lawyer Alison Pidgeon and UnitingCare West Merriwa hub manager Tracy Tuari. Picture: Martin Kennealey d491780

UPDATE, April 4: THE Merriwa service is based at UnitingCare West’s Outer North Hub, which manager Tracy Tuari said provided emergency relief, housing and financial counselling for families doing it tough.

Ms Tuari said demand for assistance through a financial wellbeing service, part of the financial counselling network run in partnership with Anglicare WA, had never been higher.

“Our clients are coming to us in record numbers with multiple debts and complex issues, with unemployment and under-employment at the forefront,” she said.

Ms Tuari said bankruptcy rates in the northern suburbs during 2017 and 2018 were among the highest in Australia.

“Banks are getting tougher on debt and many people are having to sell their homes after initial debt moratoriums have lapsed,” she said.

“Often it can be one hefty utility bill that proves to be the tipping point.

“Many of these people fall into the category of the ‘working poor’ – those who are under-employed, or whose wages aren’t keeping pace with the rising cost of living.”

The Midland service is based at the Midland Information Debt and Legal Advocacy Service and the Baldivis outreach is at the Mary Davies Library and Community Centre.

People needing financial support can call UnitingCare West’s financial wellbeing service on 9220 1255.

For help with mortgage repayment issues, call Legal Aid WA on 1300 650 579.

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