Ms Meerman’s team of three counsellors based at Midlas in the Midland CBD helped Perth’s north-east deal with more than $50 million worth of debt last financial year. In the past six months, half of their clients were having issues paying off their mortgage. Mortgage delinquency occurs when someone falls more than 30 days behind on their home loan repayments.
Despite slight improvements on delinquency rates across the country and in WA, it remains a rampant issue. Recent figures from Commonwealth Bank suggest more than 1.5 per cent of its WA customers were in arrears on their home loan, second only to the Northern Territory.
Moody’s April 2018 mortgage delinquency map showed four of Australia’s worst performing regions were in WA: the WA outback, the Wheatbelt, Mandurah and Perth’s north east, which includes Midland. While the numbers paint a concerning picture, behind them are thousands of families who have experienced job losses or sickness, which is causing huge financial strain and serious mental health issues.
“It is really sad and most of these clients coming into me, they’re in their 50s or early 60s, they have worked their whole life, they’ve never been out of a job this long.
“It’s about their identity as a person and they feel like they’re failures. They’re facing bankruptcy, they’re at the end of their life with nothing to show for a lifetime of work.”
Ms Meerman said these clients usually had great payment histories on their home loan and it was frustrating for her to see banks pursuing them relentlessly after missing payments.
Waikiki resident Samantha*, her husband and teenage daughter are healthy but they were affected by the ailing WA construction industry.
Her husband lost his job in April for three months, which was a huge blow to the family income.
“It wasn’t his choice to lose the job … he works with timber and that feeds the building industry and when that collapsed his company started retrenching people, he was sort of the last one on so the first one to go,” she said. The family’s mental health was strained from the financial stress coupled with the often crushing nature of job hunting her husband was going through.
“It got to the stage where he would’ve gotten a job in Welshpool, and travelled three hours a day just to have a job to pay the bills.
With the help of a financial counsellor both Samantha and Adam were able to get the bank off their backs and navigate their ways out of financial strife in ways they would have never thought of themselves.
Ms Meerman said falling behind on mortgage payments was a complex and stressful time, which is why the free service the financial counsellors network provides was so important.
She said the first thing they asked was whether the lack of income was because of illness or injury.
“If that’s the case you want to get onto your insurances ASAP. Not just insurances you know you’re paying for but the ones you might not know you have on your loans and with your super.
“Some people are insured for quite a lot of money through their super. They can pay out their house.
“I have seen people lose their house when they could have actually paid it out.”
Visit financialcounsellors.org for more information.