About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

24 Child & Fam. L. Q. 1 (2012)
Recession, repossession and Family welfare

handle is hein.journals/chilflq24 and id is 3 raw text is: 1

Recession, repossession and
family welfare
Beverley A Searle*
This article questions the traditional privileging within the judicial system of creditors
over occupiers following default on mortgage payments and the repossession of family
homes. It does this within the context of the 2007 financial crisis, one cause of which
lay within the heart of the housing financial (creditor) sector In particular it argues that
the circumstances associated with repossession are heightened during periods of
economic decline. Families are at increasing risk of losing their home where economic
conditions put pressure on household budgets and options for re-mortgaging are
constrained. This is compounded where political ideology positions owner-occupation
as the preferred tenure.
Whilst houses are bought, homes are repossessed. However the meaning or value
of 'home' is often lacking in legal disputes concerning defaulted mortgage payments.
The article provides evidence of the circumstances which put families at risk of losing
their home and importantly considers the devastating psychological and social
consequences of repossession on families and their children.
Although the contribution of social policy to legal issues has been recognised for some
time, it is acknowledged that 'deficiencies' in certain aspects of law still remain.1 One
key deficiency, identified by Lorna Fox, is the lack of a developed understanding of the
meaning of home within the legal sphere.2 Fox points out that although home is
recognised as a special type of property within some aspects of the law,3 the concept
of home (which is present in much social policy and social science based research) is
lacking from legal disputes. This is particularly so where a creditor's commercial claim
to be paid is held to outweigh an occupier's home interest in cases of default on
repayment of mortgage instalments.4
The risks5 associated with (non-payment of) mortgage debt came to the fore in the
UK during the economic downturn of the 1990s, when housing repossessions reached
an all-time high. With history set to repeat itself, the financial crisis of 2007 is set to
Research Fellow, Centre for Housing Research, University of St Andrews.
This paper has significantly benefitted from the help of Rebecca Probert, and from the comments of the
two anonymous referees.
Rt Hon Lord Justice Thorpe, 'Property Rights on Family Breakdown' [2002] Fam Law 891.
2 L Fox, Conceptualising Home: Theories, Law and Policies (Hart, 2007).
For example she cites home-related issues in the Family Law Act 1996, and the intangible or emotional
aspects that are compensated for through home loss payments when homes are subject to compulsory
purchase under s 29 of the Land Compensation Act 1973: ibid at pp 336-337.
4   lbid, at pp 11-12.
For a discussion on the conceptualisation of risk and implications for socio-legal processes and housing
policy see J Croft, ' A Risk or At Risk Reconceptualising Housing Debt in a Risk Welfare Society'
(2001) 16 Housing Studies 737.

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing thousands of academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.

Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline.

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most