Find out about what happens in a court hearing if your lender wants repossess your home.
Where possession hearings are held
Mortgage possession hearings usually take place in your local county court. The papers you get from the court tell you the address.
The hearing usually take place in a room called chambers. This could be the judge's private room or a courtroom.
Use the Gov.uk Court finder to find details of your local court.
Why you should go to a repossession hearing
At a court repossession hearing a judge decides if your mortgage lender can repossess your home.
You have more chance of keeping your home if you attend the court hearing.
You can explain your situation to the judge. If you have an adviser they may be able to speak for you.
Being taken to county court is different to going to a criminal court. You can't be sent to prison.
What happens when you arrive at court
Arrive at the court before the time of your hearing. If you arrive late, the court may already have made an order to repossess your home.
When you arrive:
- tell the court staff that you are there to attend the hearing
- ask to see the duty adviser if you don't have an adviser or representative to speak on your behalf
- find out in which room your hearing is taking place
Be prepared to wait. There are usually other cases being heard.
Help from a court duty adviser
Many courts have a duty adviser or solicitor who may be able to give you last-minute advice.
Ask the court staff when you arrive if there are advisers on duty. This service is usually called the court duty scheme. The service is free.
A duty adviser can:
- give you last-minute advice
- try to negotiate an agreement with your lender's representative
- speak for you in court
Arrive at the court early if you want to speak to a duty adviser. Take any relevant documents and letters with you.
You can’t rely on getting help on the day of your hearing as there isn't always an adviser on duty. It's better if you can prepare for your court hearing.
Who is allowed into the court hearing
A judge hears your case. The judge checks that everyone in the room is there for the correct hearing.
The general public are not allowed in.
If you have an adviser who is not a solicitor, they can speak on your behalf if they are part of the court's duty scheme. If your adviser is not part of a duty scheme, they must ask the judge for permission to speak for you.
You can usually take a friend or family member with you into the courtroom to help you if you don't have an adviser or solicitor. Ask the judge's permission if you want your friend to speak on your behalf.
How the court makes a decision
Your lender's solicitor explains what order the lender wants the court to make.
You or your adviser can ask the lender or their solicitor questions.
You or your adviser tell the court your arguments against repossession.
The judge may ask you or your lender's solicitor questions.
The judge makes a decision based on what the law says and on evidence from you and your landlord.
What decisions the court can make
The judge can decide to:
- make an outright possession order – this means you are given a date to leave your home
- make a suspended possession order – this means you can stay in your home as long as you keep to certain conditions
- adjourn the case – this means a final decision is postponed to a later date
- strike out the case – this means the case is dismissed and you can stay in your home
- make a time order (for second mortgages or secured loans only) – this means you can stay in your home as long as you keep to the conditions ordered
The judge could also make a money judgment and an order about court costs.
Ask the judge to explain what the court's decision means if you don't understand it.
A copy of any order that is made will be sent to you after the hearing.
If the judge decides you should lose your home, your lender can ask the court to send bailiffs to evict you.
Find out more about decisions the court can make.
For face to face help, use Shelter's directory to find a local housing adviser.
Need help before you go to court?
You may be able to get help from a legal aid lawyer if you claim certain benefits or have a low income.
Call Shelter’s free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444
Have the papers you received from the court with you when you speak to an adviser.
Video: What are court hearings like?
Last updated 20 Dec 2016 | © Shelter
If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help