Equifax says mortgage-holders in B.C., Ontario, increasingly missed payments during Q4


Consumers in Ontario and British Columbia increasingly missed payments on mortgages and credit cards in the fourth quarter of 2023, Equifax Canada said.

The fourth quarter saw a continuation of what’s been happening for a while now as the impacts of higher interest rates and inflation continue to weigh on consumers, said Rebecca Oakes, vice-president of advanced analytics at Equifax Canada, in an interview with The Canadian Press.

These effects are becoming more visible as people renew their mortgages, she said, and in areas where housing prices are more expensive in Canada.

“We’re seeing that strain start to increase, and really starting to see missed payments coming out more and more on the credit side for individuals,” said Oakes.

Mortgage delinquency rates soared in those provinces, surpassing pre-pandemic levels, the agency said.

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In Ontario, the mortgage delinquency rate was up 135.2 per cent compared with a year earlier, while B.C.’s rate rose by 62.2 per cent.

Financially stressed homeowners in those provinces are also increasingly missing credit payments, the agency said, a trend primarily driven by homeowners who are 36 and younger.

“What we are seeing in Ontario and B.C. in particular is that as consumers are coming up to the end of their term periods on their mortgage, whether that’s fixed or variable, and they’re renewing their mortgage, there are payments shocks that are happening for individuals, and that’s something we knew was coming,” said Oakes.

“And for some individuals, unfortunately … it’s a tipping point.”

Younger consumers tend to have higher mortgage amounts owing, and less savings to lean on, she said.

A number of single-family homes in Vancouver.
Financially stressed homeowners in those provinces are also increasingly missing credit payments, according to Equifax, a trend primarily driven by homeowners who are 36 and younger. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

“As you tend to get financial stress, the credit card does tend to be one of the first things where we see missed payments coming through,” said Oakes.

“It definitely is a worrying trend.”

Housing prices are higher in B.C. and Ontario, Oakes said, contributing to the heightened levels of delinquency and missed payments in those provinces.

Rates rising at slower pace outside B.C. and Ontario

Outside of B.C. and Ontario, where mortgage amounts tend to be lower, Equifax Canada said mortgage delinquency rates are rising at a slower pace and are still much lower than pre-pandemic.

Mortgage delinquency rates across the country rose 52.3 per cent in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier, while delinquency rates for non-mortgage debts that are more than 90 days overdue rose by 28.9 per cent.

Equifax Canada said that as homeowners continue to renew their mortgages in a much higher interest rate environment, consumers who locked in historically low rates in 2020 may struggle to maintain their monthly payments.

Post-renewal, monthly mortgage payments rose by $457 on average in the fourth quarter, said Equifax Canada. In B.C. and Ontario, that increase exceeded $680.

Upcoming mortgage renewals will be pivotal for many homeowners, said Oakes.

Total consumer debt hit $2.45 trillion in the fourth quarter, up 3.2 per cent from the previous year. Non-mortgage debt rose by 4.1 per cent, mainly driven by an increase in credit card debt.

The number of consumers missing payments on credit products also increased, surpassing 2019 levels. While consumer insolvency levels are still below pre-pandemic levels, Equifax Canada said that the sharp increase in mortgage holders filing for bankruptcy is a worrying trend.

That increase was particularly sharp in Ontario and B.C., the agency said.

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