Domestic violence is the third-greatest contributor to mortgage stress after unemployment and mental health issues, a forum heard last week.

The forum was held last Tuesday at Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre’s official launch of the Mortgage Wellbeing Service (MWS), which began in March.

The forum discussed some of the contributing factors to mortgage stress and how the service helped people in the west.

Rachna Muddagouni, chief executive of the legal centre’s parent body Community West, told

Star Weekly that in some instances women separated from their partners following domestic violence were unable to manage mortgage repayments on their own.

“We have also seen cases where the original loan was taken out in our clients’ names through pressure by the perpetrator, or the perpetrator withheld mortgage contributions during the relationship,” Ms Muddagouni said. “Both actions constitute economic abuse.”

Ms Muddagouni said it was important to view both family violence and mortgage stress as a health and legal issue, instead of in isolation.

Since it began, the MWS has helped more than 60 people living or working in the west, more than half of them being Melton residents.

While the service is unable to determine whether mortgage stress and domestic violence are linked, Ms Muddagouni said it was important to note Melton recorded high rates of both.

“We have seen a number of clients experiencing this combination [domestic violence and mortgage stress], which can be a complex case to manage and requires legal, social work and financial counselling support,” she said.

“Mortgage stress almost always manifests in emotional issues and can lead to legal and financial problems.

“An effective response to the issues needs to acknowledge and address the range of causes and impacts, otherwise clients may fall back into a similar situation.”

For more information on the MWS or to make an appointment, call 8312 2064 or email mortgage@communitywest.org.au