Find out what you can do to avoid court action for repossession if you have mortgage arrears.
Contact your lender about arrears
Contact your lender if you have mortgage arrears. You may be able to come to an agreement.
Write a holding letter to your lender as soon as possible.
Your letter should:
- explain why you're in arrears
- say that you're making every effort to clear the arrears
- say that you'll write to them again soon with a proposal for dealing with the arrears
This may give you time to speak to an adviser and get help.
The sooner you contact your lender the better your chances of keeping your home.
Try to make payments towards your mortgage. It's better to pay something rather than nothing, even if you can't pay the full instalment.
Look at your options
Your options depend on:
- the type of mortgage you have
- how far behind you are with payments
- the reason you're in arrears (for example, you lost your job)
- if your financial problems are likely to be temporary or more long-term
Look at your finances
Your mortgage is a priority debt. You should pay your mortgage before other non-priority bills such as credit cards, phone bills, TV subscriptions.
Look at your financial situation. Try to work out how you can pay your arrears and keep up with future mortgage payments.
Use a budgeting tool to help you look at your finances and see how you might be able to cut your spending. You may be able to make changes to your mortgage, get help with paying the interest or claim benefits.
Get advice about arrears
Get advice immediately if you have mortgage arrears.
An adviser can help you look at your options and come up with a realistic proposal for dealing with the problem.
Make a proposal to your lender
You'll need to make a realistic proposal for paying off your arrears. You or your adviser must write to your lender setting out your proposal.
If your proposal is accepted, your lender shouldn't take any further action as long as you keep to what's agreed.
Find out how to make a proposal to your lender.
If your lender doesn't accept your proposal they should write to you within 10 days to explain why not.
Your lender may:
- suggest an alternative proposal
- tell you that they will start repossession proceedings.
Try to talk to your lender about your arrears before they start court action.
Even after legal action has been started there are still options that could help you to keep your home.
Check your lender has followed the rules
If you have mortgage arrears, your lender must follow repossession rules for mortgage lenders.
These are called pre-action protocol rules.
If you fall into mortgage arrears, your lender must write you setting out details of:
- the amount of the arrears
- the total amount you owe on your mortgage
- any interest or charges that will be added to the arrears
Your lender should also ask you to contact them to discuss your finances and how you plan to catch up on missed payments.
Most lenders prefer to help you sort out your payment problems instead of taking court action.
Pre-action protocol rules mean that your lender should only start court action to repossess your home as a last resort.
Sell your home yourself
You could decide to sell your home if you can't pay off your arrears or keep up with your mortgage repayments. It may be better for you to sell your property yourself to get the best possible price.
Find out more about selling your home to deal with mortgage arrears.
If you decide to move out and give your keys to your lender, this is known as voluntary repossession.
You must get advice before doing this. When your home is voluntarily repossessed, you are still responsible for paying the mortgage until the property is sold. You could end up owing a lot more.
If your lender takes court action
Get legal advice for repossession as soon as you know your court hearing date. This will give you the best chance of keeping your home.
Make sure you go to the repossession hearing. The court may allow you to keep your home if you have a realistic chance of paying off your arrears.
It's worth arguing that you should be allowed to keep your home. The court may allow you extra time to find somewhere else to live if they decide against you.
Find out more about court decisions about repossession.
Kate lost her job when her employer went bankrupt. Her salary had only been paid sporadically because the company was in such financial trouble and she soon fell behind on mortgage payments. When Kate told the mortgage company that she'd lost her job, they served her with a possession notice the same week. She shares her own advice.
Last updated 29 Nov 2016 | © Shelter