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Home repossession process

This page tells you about the process if your lender starts court action.

It can take several months.

There are things you can do at each stage to try and keep your home.

Get debt advice early so you can understand your options.

1. Your lender contacts you about missed mortgage payments

They will talk to you about how you plan to pay back any arrears.

You do not have to wait for your lender to contact you. You can call them if you're worried about missing a payment.

Most banks and building societies have signed the government's mortgage charter.

They have agreed not to force people to leave their home within a year of their first missed payment unless there are exceptional circumstances.

You have time to get advice and take steps to deal with missed mortgage payments.

2. Your lender starts court action

Your lender may start court action to repossess your home if you cannot agree a repayment plan. This should be a last resort.

They must provide you with a list of all missed payments, the total level of arrears and the outstanding mortgage debt before they apply to court.  

There are other rules the lender must follow before starting court action.

Get legal advice if your lender starts court action.

3. The court sends you paperwork

You will get several letters and forms from the court. Keep them together in a file.

You should check the documents carefully and complete and return the defence form.

4. You attend the possession hearing

It's very important to attend the hearing. If you do not turn up, the court will probably make an outright possession order and you could lose your home.

You should tell the court as soon as possible if you have a very good reason not to go. For example, sudden and serious illness.

Find out what to do at a repossession hearing.

You can get free legal help from a county court duty adviser on the day if you do not have an adviser or solicitor with you.

5. The court makes a decision at the hearing

There are 2 types of possession order:

  • an outright order

  • a suspended order 

An outright order is very serious. It sets a date for you to leave your home. This could be as soon as 4 weeks after the hearing. 

A suspended order allows you to stay in your home on the terms set by the court. You have to pay a set amount on top of your normal monthly mortgage payment.

Sometimes the lender's repossession action is dismissed or adjourned at the hearing.

Find out more about the court's decision at a mortgage repossession hearing.

Contact a Shelter adviser if the judge makes an outright possession order.

You can sometimes get it set aside or changed to a suspended order. 

6. When bailiffs can be asked to evict you 

Your lender can ask bailiffs to evict you if the court makes:

  • a suspended order and you break the terms of the order 

  • an outright order and the date for possession has passed

Your lender must apply for an eviction warrant from the court. They must send a notice to your home to say they've done this. 

You could be evicted 14 days after this notice unless you take action.

Find out how to stop an eviction after a repossession hearing.

7. Sale of your home by the lender

If an eviction takes place, the mortgage lender will sell your home.

When the sale goes through your lender and any other secured creditors get their money back. You will get any money left over.

If you owe more than the property sells for, you may have to pay back the mortgage shortfall.

Last updated: 30 June 2023

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