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Borrowers running into difficulty with their mortgage repayments are often urged to get in touch with their lender as soon as they run into trouble.
But doing the right thing could come at added cost to borrowers, as some lenders charge customers for debt counselling or for sending them letters about their arrears.
Moneysupermarket.com, the price comparison website, found that big name lenders, including Halifax and GMAC, charge £100 for their debt counselling services. Other lenders, including BM Solutions and Northern Rock, had “variable” rates for their debt advice.
Borrowers who may be struggling to meet their repayments could be put under further pressure by some banks which charge for communications relating to arrears.
Halifax will charge borrowers £35 for every letter sent after they have fallen into arrears, while BM Solutions charges £35 for every letter after the “first contact”, according to Moneysupermarket.com.
While banks aren’t charities, Citizens Advice, the debt campaigner, says the high charges often imposed on borrowers in arrears does nothing to help them get back on track with repayments.
The charity says that lenders will often keep making these charges even when payment arrangements have been agreed.
It adds that it is not clear how the charges reflect the real costs that lenders face, particularly where arrears repayments have been agreed with borrowers.
With the recent round of interest rate rises set to push many more borrowers into financial hardship, borrowers in difficulty should continue to alert their lender first.
But you don’t have to feel pushed into taking debt counselling from your lender, which may come at a cost. Free, independent debt advice is available from groups such as Citizens Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk)