A fifth of British homeowners, 1.6 million households, are concerned about repaying their mortgage over the next three months, according data collected by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, on behalf of Online Mortgage Advisor.

Moreover, 1.9 million customers were granted a mortgage holiday as a result of COVID-19, with the average suspended mortgage payment at £755 per month.

In addition, on average one in six mortgages were subject to payment deferrals, and over 1.2 million of these deferrals were approved in the first three weeks of the scheme.

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Pete Mugleston, managing director of the Online Mortgage Advisor, said: “There is no doubt that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on household finances for many and whilst we do not know how many would have defaulted on their loans without the support from the government and banks, many of the 1.9 million applying for payment breaks have found them essential in getting through tough periods of redundancy, or lower income.

“The problem is that those now looking to resume payments are facing increased job losses and further lockdowns across the country and may experience real financial hardship over the coming months.

“Even if a small proportion continue to fall behind on their mortgage repayments, it could be catastrophic. That said it is certainly plausible that not all payment breaks were taken by those who actually struggled financially.

“The reality of this now reveals a problem that has always existed – the disparity between CRA credit scores and what lenders actually use to make their decisions.

“Scores these days are much more of a marketing tool than something used by lenders in new applications for credit. The details on a credit file are interpreted, analysed and assessed by each lender, so what can improve a ‘credit score’ is not necessarily what lenders will be happy with.”