What to do if your mortgage lender starts court action

When you get letters from the court

You should:

  • get advice if you can

  • work out a plan to repay the arrears if you’re able to

  • decide what to ask the court if you cannot afford to stay in your home

  • check the court documents and return the defence form

Get debt advice

A debt adviser can help you draw up a financial statement and make a repayment plan.

Make a repayment plan

The judge will usually let you stay in your home if you can show that you can pay both:

  • your monthly mortgage payment

  • a set amount each month until you clear the arrears

The plan needs to show that you have enough income left over every month to pay a regular amount towards the arrears until they are cleared. 

Drawing up a financial statement can help you do this.

If you come up with a reasonable repayment proposal, put it in writing to your lender before the court hearing. They may still want to go to court to make sure you stick to it, but they must treat you fairly.

Make a formal complaint if your lender will not talk to you or rejects reasonable proposals to deal with the arrears.

You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if you're unhappy with the lender's response. You should ask the court to delay the hearing while they wait for the FOS to consider the complaint.

Decide what to do if your mortgage is unaffordable

It may not be possible to keep your home in the longer term if you:

  • cannot afford the monthly repayments

  • will not be able to clear the arrears by the end of the mortgage term

Some homeowners choose to sell their homes in this situation rather than wait for repossession and eviction.

If you accept an offer on your home, you could ask for time at the hearing to allow the sale to go through. You'll need to show the court evidence of the sale. 

Check the court documents and return the defence form

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

Letters receivedWhat this means
Claim and defence formsYour lender has applied for a possession order.
Notice of possession hearingThe court has arranged a hearing for you to attend.

The claim form

The claim form and particulars contain the details about your mortgage and the missed payments. Read through this information carefully. Make a note if there's anything you disagree with.

The defence form

Use the defence form to tell the judge:

  • about your financial circumstances

  • how you can repay the arrears

  • if you disagree with anything the lender has said

You should also say if the lender has not followed the steps they should take before starting court action.

Mention if you’ve been struggling because of coronavirus. For example if you’ve lost your job or your income has reduced.  

You should return it to the court within 14 days.

If you cannot complete the form or get help with it, court guidance says you could send a short statement to the court instead.

Notice of possession hearing

A hearing will take place at your local county court. Many courts are dealing with a backlog caused by coronavirus, so you may have to wait longer for the paperwork.

You should always attend the hearing if you can.

Let the court know in advance if you cannot attend. You may be able to join the hearing by phone or video. 

Check the latest coronavirus guidance for what to do when you have a court hearing and you need to self isolate. The legal requirement to self isolate when you have coronavirus ended on 24 February 2022.

You can get legal help from a duty adviser on the day of the hearing. The notice of possession will tell you how to do this.

Last updated: 24 February 2022

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