By Daniel Hunter

The number of mortgage possessions fell again in the third quarter of 2012, according to data released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

A total of 8,200 properties were taken into possession in the third quarter, down from 8,500 in the second quarter and 9,600 at the same time last year. This marked the lowest number of properties taken into possession in a single quarter since 2007.

The number of mortgages in arrears remained stable in the third quarter. At the end of September, the total number of mortgages with arrears of 2.5% or more of the outstanding balance rose slightly to 159,100, up from 158,700 in the previous quarter but still down on the 165,300 in arrears in the same period last year.

Levels of arrears in the lower and middle bands remained consistent with the previous three months but there was a small increase (from 28,600 to 29,000) in those mortgages with the highest levels of arrears - more than 10% of the balance.

A total of 26,300 properties were taken into possession in the first three quarters of 2012, 8% fewer than in the first three quarters of last year. While the repossession rate equated to 0.13% in the buy-to-let sector, the rate was just 0.06% in the owner-occupier sector — resulting in an overall repossession rate of 0.07% in the quarter.

In the buy-to-let sector, repossession is only likely to occur at the end of an agreed tenancy, when the landlord is in arrears. In the owner-occupier sector, repossession is a last resort and the low rate of repossession reflects significant lender forbearance.

“Our figures show that good communication and effective arrears management by borrowers, lenders and money advisers are helping the vast majority of those with mortgage repayment problems," CML director general Paul Smee said.

"The rate of repossession has continued to fall and it’s clear that lenders want to keep people in their homes.

“Repossession really is a last resort but it’s essential for anyone worried about their mortgage to talk to their lender as soon as possible — it is more difficult to resolve problems when they are not tackled early.”

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