UK house prices
Fewer mortgages are being approved amid tighter lender rules imposed by regulators Reuters

Banks are approving fewer mortgages in the UK amid tougher rules for lenders.

The British Bankers' Association (BBA) said lenders approved 42,173 mortgages in April, down from March's 45,045 in the third consecutive monthly decline.

At the end of April, financial regulators tightened the affordability tests lenders must apply to prospective borrowers.

These tests check that mortgage applicants can afford the monthly repayments in a number of different scenarios, such as interest rates rising.

This is to keep a lid on riskier mortgage lending as house prices rise sharply and household finances remain squeezed.

There are concerns that low interest rates and schemes such as Help to Buy are risking a credit bubble, which may burst when the Bank of England hikes rates again.

House prices have been driven up by a protracted imbalance between supply and demand.

Housing demand is being fuelled by cheap mortgage credit and a recovering domestic economy.

But the UK is not building enough homes to cope with this. Official estimates put the UK's housing need at 290,500 new homes a year. Current building levels are running at around half this.

This means that many buyers have to take out larger mortgages relative to their incomes, which have stagnated in recent years amid a higher cost of living and weak wage growth.

Richard Woolhouse, chief economist at the BBA, noted that despite the general increase in mortgage market activity, approvals were still well below pre-financial crisis norms.