Home repossession process

Repossession of a mortgaged home happens in a number of stages. There's action you can take at each stage to prevent it.

Get advice if you are facing repossession

You may be able to get help from a legal aid funded service if you claim certain benefits or have a low income.

Contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345.

You can also get help from a Shelter adviser.

1. Your lender writes to you about mortgage arrears

Your mortgage lender has to follow rules about how they deal with you.

If you fall behind with your mortgage payments, your lender should first contact you to ask you to sort the problem out.

You should talk to your lender, consider all your options and put a proposal to your lender about how to deal with the arrears.

Your lender should write to you again. They should warn you that they'll start court action to repossess your home if you don't respond or if they're unhappy with your response.

You can negotiate with your lender at this stage too.

2. Your lender applies to a court asking for a possession order

Your mortgage lender must get a court order to repossess your home.

To get this, the mortgage lender has to make an application to the local county court setting out reasons why a judge should give them possession of your home.

3. The court writes to tell you the hearing date

The court fixes a date for a court hearing where a judge decides if you can keep your home or if your mortgage lender should get possession.

The court will send you a copy of the lender's claim form with:

  • the time and date of the court hearing
  • the reasons the lender wants to repossess your home
  • a defence form for you to complete and return to the court

It is important to reply to the court using the defence form.

Get advice as soon as possible. An adviser may be able to help you prepare for the hearing, gather evidence and negotiate with the lender or lender's solicitor.

Find out more about preparing for a court hearing.

4. A judge hears the repossession case

A judge in a county court makes decisions about repossession.

The judge reads and hears the evidence from you and your lender before making a decision.

The judge may:

  • decide that your home should be repossessed – this means you can be evicted and your lender can sell the property to repay your mortgage debts
  • make a suspended possession order – this allows you to stay in your home provided you keep to certain conditions
  • adjourn the case – this means the case is postponed for a hearing at a later date to allow you and the lender to take certain steps before the case comes back to court
  • dismiss the case against you

Find out more about decisions at a repossession hearing.

5. The court makes an order for repossession

A possession order is granted if the judge decides that your home should be repossessed.

The judge decides a date when you have to leave and the court order says when this is. This is usually in 28 days but the judge could allow you up to 56 days.

You may be ordered to pay court costs. Usually the lender adds their legal costs to your outstanding debt.

A suspended possession order is granted if the judge decides you should have another chance to keep your home.

A suspended possession order allows you to stay as long as you keep to the terms agreed at the hearing. For example, that you pay your monthly instalments plus your mortgage arrears at a set amount.

6. Bailiffs are sent to remove you if you don't leave

Your lender can ask the courts bailiffs to remove you from your home if you:

  • haven't left your home by the date on a court order for possession or
  • you don't keep to a repayment agreement made in court as part of a suspended possession order

Your lender must apply to the court for a bailiff's warrant. If the bailiffs don't have a warrant, you cannot be removed from your home.

The bailiffs write to tell you when they will come to repossess your home.

When they evict you, bailiffs can't use physical violence or offensive language. If you don't leave voluntarily the bailiffs can call the police.

Find out more about challenging an eviction by bailiffs.

The lender will probably add the costs of the bailiff's warrant to your outstanding loan.

Get advice about staying until bailiffs remove you.

7. Your mortgage lender sells your home

After your home has been repossessed, your mortgage lender will sell the property.

Until the property is sold, you are still responsible for paying interest on what you owe.

After the sale, the lender keeps the money they are owed and pays you anything that's left over.

If there's a shortfall between what you owe and what the property is sells for, you may have to pay off any mortgage shortfall to the lender.

Last updated 31 Dec 2016 | © Shelter

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