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Mortgage arrears: court action

This content applies to England & Wales

What happens when a mortgage lender takes action in the courts for possession of a property because of mortgage arrears.

Before the court hearing, advisers should try to negotiate with the lender to ask for concessions and to see if an agreement can be made to pay off the arrears over a period of time (if this is possible). This is particularly important because the legal costs of lengthy proceedings can be substantial and, under the terms of the mortgage deed, will normally have to be paid by the borrower. The Pre-action Protocol for Possession Claims based on Mortgage Arrears sets out steps that lenders and borrowers should take to ensure that court proceedings are a matter of last resort. Different options for dealing with mortgage payment problems are discussed in detail in the section on Mortgage arrears: payment problems.

For explanations of the terminology used in this section, see Mortgage jargon.

exclamationPlease, note that from 27 March 2020, all ongoing possession proceedings are suspended for 90 days. For more information about emergency measures introduced to deal with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on borrowers, visit the Mortgage payment problems page in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and housing section.

Legal framework

Legal background to court action for mortgage arrears, including the lender's remedies. 

Mortgage arrears possession process

The steps the lender will take to bring possession action, and the options available to the judge. 

Mortgage arrears calculations

How mortgage arrears are calculated. 

Second charge loans

Requirements for lenders of second charge loans before taking possession action. 

Lenders steps before court action

The steps lenders will usually take before commencing court action. 


Possible defences in mortgage possession cases. 

How borrowers defend claims

Steps that can be taken in the court proceedings, including the possession hearing. 

Types of orders

Orders the judge can make following a court hearing. 

Time orders

Time orders, and considers when the court might grant such an order. 

Changing court orders

How the borrower can challenge or amend the order made, for example because of a change in circumstances. 

Bailiffs enforcement

Enforcement of possession orders by the court's enforcement agents (bailiffs).  

After eviction

Powers the court has after repossession, the lender's responsibilities to the property and the lender's sale of the property. 

Selling the home

The situation where the borrower wants to sell the property, either during or after possession proceedings. 

Mortgage shortfall debts

Where a sale by the borrower or the lender may not be enough to pay off the mortgage in full. 

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