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Extra help for struggling property owners kicks in today in UK

The UK government is doubling the size of mortgages covered by the scheme to £200,000. That means more people who are struggling will get help with interest payments on loans. .

They will also have a shorter wait to qualify for the scheme as the waiting period is reduced from 39 weeks to 13 weeks.

The moves were announced last year as part of the government's plans to ease the impact of the economic slowdown.

But the Council of Mortgage Lenders, which forecasts the repossession of 75,000 residential properties in 2009, said the change would have only a limited effect.

It points out that the help only covers mortgage interest, not capital repayments, and it is only available when people are already on some form of income support.

And where a house has been bought by a couple, both partners would usually have to be out of work before they are entitled to help.

'It is only going to be of assistance to somebody who may be buying on their own or if both partners lose their source of income. So it will help a few home owners but not a huge number,' said a CML spokesman.

However, there is further help available under a separate government scheme announced in December that allows people struggling to meet payments to defer mortgage interest payments for up to two years.

But the help does not apply to buy-to-let property investors and The Association of Residential Lettings Agents is forecasting a tough year ahead.

It expects a rise in the number of landlords defaulting on their mortgage payments accompanied by an increase in the rate of repossessions in the sector.

However, ARLA is hopeful that a revival of the buy-to-let market will be evident by the end of 2010 and operations manager, Ian Potter, said he believes that falling house prices will entice back landlords who have exited the market.

Mr Potter added that further falls in interest rates on savings accounts should convince investors that bricks and mortar are still the most solid long-term investment.