More than one in ten mortgages are now in difficulty with almost 50,000 home owners now in arrears with their monthly payments, it emerged today.

The Central Bank said 86,271 mortgages were either in arrears or have been restructured at the end of March, representing some 11 percent of the total residential mortgage market.

With the recession continuing to squeeze household income, the number in arrears is rising.

The bank said for the first three months of the year, the number of homeowners behind their pyaments for more than 90 days rose now stands at 49,609 - up from 44,508 at the end of December.

Almost 63,000 of the total 786,164 have been restructured to ease the burden on struggling householders. Of these 36,662 are not in arrears, the Central Bank said.

The introduction of the universal social charge and interest rate rises over the last four months are being blamed for the increase.

Banks supported by the state are obliged to negotiate with the mortgage holders who are about to fall behind on payments.

Figures released today show that switching to interest only payments is the most common alternative with 23,460 householders.

But banks have also agreed to reduced payments per month in around 17,500 cases. Another 7,600 have had the term of their loan extended while around 2,500 have had payment holidays or moratoriums granted.

Today's Central Bank figures also show that another 140 homes were repossessed in the first three months of the year, up from 106 repossessions that took place in the fourth quarter of 2010. The Central Bank’s data shows that 33 repossessed homes were re-sold in the three month period.

During the first quarter, 231 court proceedings were concluded, with the courts granting repossession orders in 136 cases, while in 111 cases the courts made orders to enforce the debt or security on the mortgage.

The Director of Consumer Protection, Bernard Sheridan, urged consumers struggling with mortgage repayments to contact their lender as early as possible so that they can benefit from the protections offered by the revised code of conduct on mortgage arrears.

More information

Arrears: What to do if you are in difficulty - a guide