More than 1m borrowers in the United Kingdom are exchanging mortgage debt for plastic, according to a recent poll by housing charity Shelter England
Survey results published Monday revealed 6% of respondents liable for rent or mortgage said they paid by credit card at some point in the last 12 months, indicating a national figure of more than 1m, Shelter said.
"This is a shocking discovery, that over a million households in Britain are in such desperate circumstances that they need to borrow money on credit cards to pay for basic housing costs," said Shelter's director of policy and campaigns, Kay Boycott, in a statement. "If people are already struggling to the extent that they fear losing their home, increasing credit card debt cannot be the answer."
One in 12 Londoners are paying their mortgage or rent payments with a credit card. About 8% of working-class professionals testify to the practice, but middle- and upper-class households are also falling victim, with 4% of respondents indicating they pay by card.
It's a disturbing development, as HousingWire
publisher Paul Jackson predicted in October 2007
the practice may only allow distressed consumers to charge up significant debt and push bankruptcy a little farther down the road.
Shelter issued a statement warning UK homeowners of the dangers involved with charging mortgage debt to credit cards, as default could trigger repossession in more extreme cases.
"Credit card companies have to recover their debts and are not subject to the same rules as mortgage lenders," Shelter said in a statement
. "Once they obtain a charging order on people’s property, credit card companies can go back to the court for a possession order to force a sale to recover the debt."
In the US, there is an emerging trend of remaining current on credit cards at the expense of falling behind on mortgage payments -- evidence of "the need for groceries," as one Fitch Ratings
source recently told HousingWire
. But even in the US, credit card companies are seen as manipulating borrowers' finances
, since a dollar used in purchases by credit card is not really worth a dollar. After fees, for example, a "Visa dollar" is worth more like 99 cents.
Write to Diana Golobay