Fewer mortgage-holders in Somerset West and Taunton risked losing their homes last year, new figures show.

However, a national jump in claims has prompted a charity to warn those struggling with payments may be in danger of becoming homeless.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show 91 mortgage possession claims were made in Somerset West and Taunton in the year to March – 18 of which led to a property being repossessed by a bailiff.

For comparison, in 2022-23 there were 158 claims, leading to 23 homes being repossessed.

If a claim is successful, the defendant will be ordered to leave the property. If they do not come to an agreement with the claimant they can be evicted, leading to a repossession.

In the first quarter of 2024 there were 5,182 such claims made across England and Wales – a 28% increase from 4,035 a year earlier.

Mortgage rates remain at high levels since surging in late 2021, albeit with some rates being cut in recent months.

The figures show renters are also suffering, with a 6% increase in landlord claims over the same period across the country.

In Somerset West and Taunton, landlords made 482 claims in the year to March, with 132 resulting in a repossession. This was down from 2022-23, when there were 533.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: "We are concerned about the number of people who are at risk of becoming homeless.

"With the cost-of-living crisis and high interest rates, many are struggling with rent and mortgage payments and are at risk of losing their homes."

He cautioned legal aid is the only hope for many, but "remains out of reach", with more law firms no longer offering advice.

StepChange is a charity that offers advice and support for those in arrears with their mortgage or rent.

Policy manager Jonathan Chesterman said: "Rent or mortgage payments are priority bills, so if you are in arrears with these payments, they should always be addressed before any consumer credit debt."

He said it's "really important" to let your lender or landlord know as early as possible if you fear you might fall behind on payments.

"Mortgage lenders have a regulatory responsibility to treat borrowers fairly, offering support and forbearance for people who are in difficulty," he added.

A Treasury spokesperson said: "Interest rates are high across the developed world as economies work to tackle high inflation and the UK is no different.

"While it is welcome news that we have met the pledge to halve inflation, we know many people are continuing to struggle.

"Anyone struggling with their mortgages should contact their lender, and where relevant, consider the flexibilities in our Mortgage Charter, which can make it easier to manage monthly repayments and gives extra protections against repossessions."