Nearly 4000 mortgages remain on deferral scheme as it comes to an end

  • 24/03/2021
"I think mortgagee sales will start to come back into the market."
"I think mortgagee sales will start to come back into the market." Photo credit: Getty.

By Nicholas Pointon of RNZ

The question of what happens next to those who took up the offer of mortgage payment relief is being raised as the scheme winds down at the end of March.

The scheme was introduced in response to the pandemic to allow mortgage holders experiencing financial hardship to defer principal and interest payments until they got back on their feet.

It ends on March 31 and while most of the mortgages that were on the programme had moved off of it, data from the credit reporting firm Centrix shows there were still about 3800 mortgages in deferral throughout the country.

Centrix's chief operating officer Mark Rowley said when the scheme ends he expected banks would continue to support customers struggling to make their payments but acknowledged mortgagee sales could occur.

"I think mortgagee sales will start to come back into the market, but I think we're not likely to see them for some time yet, there's likely to be quite significant support from the banking sector in the short term at least."

He said the reality was that 95 percent of mortgages that were on deferral are now back on normal payment arrangements and a large majority of those are meeting their payment terms.

About 4 percent of those who came off the deferral were now in arrears and Rowley said it suggested those people may have come off the scheme too early.

The highest number of mortgages on deferral were in Queenstown, which reflected the economic blow that closed borders had dealt to the tourist town.

"There is still a number of mortgages still on payment deferral scheme in Queenstown and other areas affected by the tourism downturn."

It was necessary for people who were struggling to make payments to get in contact with their banks, Rowley said.

"Most lenders understand that there are some parts of the economy still hurting badly from the impact of COVID and are willing to proactively work with their customers to help them navigate their debt repayments and meet their obligations.

He said it was always better to speak with lenders before missing a payment, which could have a detrimental effect on credit scores.