If you are in mortgage arrears, your mortgage lender will want you to clear them. If you don’t do this, your mortgage lender will start court action. This is called possession action and could lead to you losing your home.
Your mortgage provider shouldn’t evict you until 1 July 2021. Before this date, they can start to take court action against you, or restart action they've paused. If they do try to repossess your home, talk to an adviser.
Bailiffs shouldn't evict you if you:
If you're in one of these situations, you should tell the court and the bailiffs - their contact details will be on the notice of eviction. They’ll arrange another time to evict you - they have to give you another 14 days’ notice.
You should talk to an adviser as soon as possible if:
If your lender had already started possession action against you but it was paused because of coronavirus, this can start again.
If the original claim started before 3 August 2020, your lender should write to you to tell you your case has started again. This is called a 'reactivation notice'. They don't have to send a reactivation notice if they already have a possession order or 'notice of eviction' from the court.
Read the reactivation notice carefully. It will contain instructions you need to follow. It might tell you what your new deadline is.
If you're not sure when your deadline is or you think you've missed it, contact the court. You can also check with your solicitor or adviser, if you have one.
If you can't meet the deadline, write to the court to tell them why and ask if they can change it. For example, tell them if you're too ill to meet the deadline. You should do this as soon as possible after getting the letter.
You might be able to stop the case from going to court by negotiating an arrangement with your lender.
Even if it's not possible to stop the case from going to court, this doesn't necessarily mean that you will lose your home.
The court might agree to grant a suspended possession order. This will allow you to stay in your home as long as you keep to an arrangement to pay off the arrears.
You might be able to argue that your lender has acted unfairly or unreasonably, or has not followed the proper procedures. This could help to get court action delayed or persuade the judge to issue a suspended possession order instead of an negotiating an arrangement with your lender which could lead to you being evicted from your home.
The important things to remember are:
On this page you can find out:
Your mortgage lender should not start court action against you without following the Mortgage Conduct of Business (MCOB) rules laid down by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The rules say that your mortgage lender must treat you fairly and give you a reasonable chance to make arrangements to pay off the arrears, if you are able to. They must consider any reasonable request from you to change when or how you pay. Your mortgage lender should only start court action as a last resort, if all other attempts to collect the arrears have got nowhere.
Your mortgage lender must follow the FCA rules when dealing with rent arrears - unless you took out your mortgage before 31 October 2004.
If your mortgage lender doesn't follow these rules, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
As well as following the FCA rules, your mortgage lender should go through certain other procedures before they start court action. These are called a pre-action protocol.
You and your lender must follow certain procedures before your lender takes any court action - this is called a pre-action protocol.
If your lender takes you to court, they must complete a checklist to confirm they followed the protocol. Your lender must give copies of the checklist to you and the judge.
If they haven't completed a checklist, they must give the court a clear reason. The outcome of the case might be affected if the court isn't satisfied with your lender's reason. For example, you could use this to persuade the judge you shouldn’t have to pay the lender's costs.
The main things you have to do are:
Under the protocol, your lender must give you information about your legal rights if you miss any payments. They must also:
tell you the total amount of your arrears
tell you how much is still left to pay on your mortgage or home purchase plan, and whether interest or charges have been, or will be added
where appropriate, give you the details or an estimate of the interest or charges that may be payable on your mortgage or home purchase plan
give you information on the current monthly instalments and the amounts paid for the last 2 years
where appropriate, provide you with the required regulatory information sheet or the National Homelessness Advice Service/Shelter/Cymru booklet on mortgage arrears
seek information about whether the property is occupied by an authorised tenant
discuss with you or your representative the cause of the arrears, your financial circumstances and proposals for repayment
advise you to make early contact with the local housing authority, and where appropriate, refer you to independent debt advice
You can read the pre-action protocol in full on GOV.UK.
Your lender has to consider any reasonable request from you to change when or how you pay.
If you make an offer to repay the arrears, your mortgage lender must get back to you quickly with an answer. If they refuse your offer, they must let you know why in writing within 10 business days of the offer.
Your lender should not start court action while you are trying to come to an agreement.
For more information about trying to come to an agreement with your mortgage lender, see Dealing with your mortgage lender.
If you make an agreement to repay the arrears but don't keep to it, your mortgage lender will start court action. But they should tell you in writing that they plan to do this at least 15 working days’ in advance.
Don't ignore any letters from your lender or their solicitors. If you need help answering your lender's letters, talk to an adviser.
The pre-action protocol says your lender should consider avoiding court action if you:
Under the protocol, your lender should not start a possession claim while you are exploring an arrangement with them. This might include:
extending the term of the mortgage
changing the type of mortgage
deferring payment of interest due under the mortgage
capitalising the arrears
If your lender decides to start court action anyway, they should tell you this in writing.
You might be able to get an SMI loan if you get benefits - check if you can apply for an SMI loan.
For more information about selling your home to clear the mortgage arrears, see Selling your property to clear mortgage debts.
Before your case goes to a hearing at a court, the court will set a review date. On the review date, you can:
have a free appointment with a debt adviser - remotely or face to face
try to come to an arrangement with your lender - for example, to set up a monthly repayment arrangement to pay off your arrears
The court will tell you when your review date is and how to book your advice appointment.
If your lender agrees to an arrangement, your duty scheme adviser will tell the court. The judge will make an order based on this agreement and there won’t be a court hearing.
If your lender doesn’t agree to an arrangement, the court will set a hearing date.
The decision the judge makes at or after a hearing is called a judgment. The judge may make one of the following judgments.
An adjournment is when the judge puts the case on hold. The case could be adjourned for several reasons, including:
The judge might also put the case on hold if both:
Adjournments can result in more costs for you to pay.
If, after hearing all the evidence, the judge isn't satisfied that your lender has proved they have a right to take possession of your property, they can dismiss the case. If the case is dismissed, you can ask the judge to make an order that your lender should pay their own legal costs.
If the judge makes an outright possession order, this means that your lender has been given permission to take possession of your property. You will have to leave by the date given in the order.
For more information about outright possession orders and what happens when you don't leave by the date on the order see Eviction for mortgage arrears.
If the judge makes a suspended possession order, this means that you will be able to stay in your home as long as you keep to an arrangement to pay off the arrears. The terms of the arrangement will be set out in the order. You will need to pay off the arrears at a fixed amount a week or month on top of your normal mortgage payment. You will need to be able to pay off all the arrears by the end of the mortgage term.
If you don't stick to the arrangement, your lender can apply to the court to evict you. If the court agrees, you’ll get an eviction notice 14 days before the eviction date.
For more information about what your lender can do if you don't keep to the terms of a suspended possession order, see Eviction for mortgage arrears.
In some cases, the judge will issue a suspended possession order to give you time to sell your home. They will only do this if you can make enough from the sale to clear the whole mortgage debt. This includes all the money you borrowed as well as your arrears.
For more information about selling your home to clear the mortgage arrears, see Eviction for mortgage arrears.
As well as a possession order, a money judgment can be issued by the judge at the same time.
A money judgment allows your lender to get back all the money owed on your mortgage without having to take you to court again.
This means that if your lender evicts you and isn't able to get back all the money you owe from selling the property, they can force you to make up the difference. They won't need to go to court again to do this.
If the possession order is suspended, the money judgment will usually be suspended as well. This means that it won't come into force unless you don't keep to the terms of the suspended possession order and your lender is allowed to evict you.
After the hearing, you may be able to change the order made by the judge. You may be able to:
If you believe that the judge was wrong to make a possession order, you may be able to appeal to a higher court. You may be able to do this if you think the correct procedures weren't followed, the law wasn't applied properly or the facts the judge used to make a decision at the hearing were wrong. There is a time limit of 21 days to apply.
If you think you have reasons to appeal, you should get expert legal advice.
You can find a solicitor on the Law Society’s website.
You may be able to apply to set aside the possession order. For example, if you had good reason for not attending the hearing and you have a defence against the claim.
If you think you have reasons to set aside the order, you should get expert legal advice.
If the court has made a suspended possession order, you can apply to change (vary) the terms of the order. You might want to vary the terms if, for example, you can no longer afford to keep up the payments ordered or the sale of your property is taking longer than the court has allowed.
You can apply to vary the terms of the order on form N244. You can download the N244 form on GOV.UK or get one from the court.
There will be another court hearing. You should attend the hearing with evidence to support your application.
For more information about the kind of evidence a court might need to see, see Your mortgage lender takes you to court – how to prepare for the court hearing.
For information about suspending an outright possession order, see Eviction for mortgage arrears.
In mortgage cases, the lender is usually allowed under their contract to pass on all their recovery costs to you, the borrower. They do not need a court order to do this.
Costs will be added to your mortgage account for every hearing.
The court might, however, be able to order that some or all of the costs are not added. They might do this if they think the costs are unreasonable or your lender has behaved unreasonably in starting possession proceedings. For example, if your lender didn’t follow the pre-action protocol.
The situation may be different if you are getting legal aid. Your solicitor will be able to tell you more about this. You can:
For more information about how to deal with mortgage arrears you can read:
Go to www.nhas.org.uk.
If you're not happy with the way your lender deals with your case, you can make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. You will need to use your mortgage lender’s internal complaints procedure first.
Financial Ombudsman Service
Consumer helpline: 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123
Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm
Telephone (switchboard): 020 7964 1000
Next-generation text relay: (18002) 020 7964 1000
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Fax: 020 7964 1001
If you have mortgage arrears and you are thinking about selling your home to pay them off, you should get independent financial advice. The following organisations can help you find an independent financial adviser:
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