Vulnerable low-income mortgage-holders are not being protected from "cavalier" lenders, Citizens Advice (CA) has warned.
Its latest report, Set Up To Fail, claims the government is failing those falling prey to irresponsible brokers and sub-prime lenders.
According to one CA survey up to 770,000 people missed a mortgage payment in the last 12 months. Repossessions are now up to crisis levels not seen since the 1990s, a problem the report partly blames on failing regulation and safety nets.
"Many sub-prime lenders are flouting the rules on responsible lending by granting loans when it's clear the borrower will not be able to afford to repay it from the very outset, then getting tough immediately when things go wrong," CA chief executive David Harker said.
"Far from providing housing security and a valuable asset, home ownership has proved a fast track to debt and homelessness for many vulnerable borrowers on low incomes."
The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) attacked the report's findings, describing it as too simplistic and rejecting its claim that lenders default to court action too quickly.
"Citizens Advice has taken a sensationalist tone in this report, which risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater," director general Michael Coogan commented.
"It is vital to recognise that the overwhelming majority of mortgage borrowers are meeting their payments in full and on time. This report is in no way typical of the vast majority of cases where lenders work constructively with borrowers to get them over periods of financial difficulty and keep them in their homes."