The national mortgage delinquency rate for borrowers who are 60 days or more past due on their mortgages increased for the second time since the end of 2009 in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to TransUnion on Tuesday.

Delinquencies edged upward by 6.01% at the end of last year’s fourth quarter, which comes after an increase in the third quarter by 5.88%. Between the third and fourth quarters, all but 13 states experienced increases in their delinquency rates. 64% of metropolitan areas saw increases in delinquency rates for both the third and fourth quarters, up from 21% in Q2.

"To see that, quarter over quarter, fewer homeowners were able to make their mortgage payments is not welcome news," said Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S. Housing in TransUnion's financial services business unit.

Martin said the results are not unexpected due to the natural tendency for there to be higher delinquencies in the fourth quarter, perhaps due to borrowers juggling holiday spending and debt payments. Additionally, house prices continued to decline in the fourth quarter and unemployment remained high. Such a combination leads to negative equity in homes and reduced real personal income, which can negatively affect borrowers’ ability and motivation to pay their mortgages.

"The more encouraging news is that, when looking year over year, more homeowners are making their mortgage payments and the delinquency rate dropped over 6% since Q4 2010,” Martin said. “While it is certainly good to see the rate dropping, at this pace it will take a very long time for mortgage delinquencies to get back to normal.”

TransUnion predicts mortgage delinquency rates will drift downward “marginally” in 2012, but said we may still see “a quarter or two of slightly elevated nonpayment rates” as some borrowers are unable – or simply decide not to – repay their mortgage in light of the uncertain economy.