Whilst receiving a court summons for a home repossession can be one of the most daunting things that can happen to a homeowner, it doesn’t necessarily mean the game is over. Many believe that, if they fall behind on their mortgage payments and they are summoned to court for a repossession hearing, that they are automatically going to lose their home, but this is not always the case. There is plenty you can still do to keep the wolves (or the bailiffs in this case) from the door.
What Can I Do To Prevent My Home From Being Repossessed?
Obviously, the initial thing would be to always prioritise your mortgage payments above all other payments to avoid falling into arrears. If you find yourself in financial trouble and feel as if you won’t be able to make your payments on the agreed upon date, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family members for help, or, if all else fails, consider taking out a loan elsewhere. Failing all of that (we’re all only human after all), the first thing you’ll want to do, is gather all the facts from your lender and find out if there are actually legal grounds for a repossession, or whether they are just trying their luck. If you’ve fallen behind on your mortgage payments and have fallen into arrears, then they probably do have a case against you, but that doesn’t mean there are no still cards left to play.
Get Expert Advice
If you can afford it, you’ll want to find a solicitor who specialises in repossession cases; otherwise you might be able to get free legal advice from the government if you meet certain criteria. If you think you might qualify, you can hit up the Gov.UK website, where you’ll be asked questions about your situation and will be told if you can get legal advice. There are also other places you can find helpful legal counsel, such as Citizens Advice or your local council.
Negotiate with Your Lender
Nine times out of ten, your mortgage lender won’t actually want to go to court. Before your lender can repossess your home, they must first tell you exactly how much you owe. After this they are legally obligated to consider any requests from you to sort out a payment plan so you can get back on track with your mortgage before things go any further. Legally, the lender must respond to any and all offers you make and must give valid reasons if they turn these offers down within 10 days. If they make a counter offer, they also need to give you what is considered a reasonable amount of time to consider it. If an agreement can’t be reached, then they must (by law) give you 15 days’ written warning before they plan to file a court action. Note that even after a court action has been filed, you are still free to negotiate. It’s not over until it’s over!
Pay Something Towards Your Arrears
During negotiation the best thing you could do do help things along is to pay off some of your arrears. You should pay off as much as you can logically afford. This will significantly help your case and could lead to your lender agreeing to cancel the court order altogether if you are both satisfied.
Check Insurance Cover
Depending on your insurance, you might actually be covered against repossession, so before the lenders take things any further. Mortgage payment protection insurance is only generally activated, however, if the reason you fell behind on your payments is down to illness, injury or redundancy, not just because you let your expenses get the best of you.
Change Mortgage Terms or Your Provider
This is generally something you’d do before falling into arrears, but you might still be able to convince your lender to change your terms. This could include anything from extending your mortgage term, changing the type of mortgage, reducing payments or negotiating a ‘payment holiday’ break. Always make sure you get independent financial advice before committing to anything though, even if it sounds like it works in your favour.
Rent Out a Room
If all of the above has failed and it looks as if you might need to make a little extra income in order to pay off your arrears before a repossession order is filed, consider renting out a room of your home to a lodger. This might not be much, be it could prove to be the crucial amount that puts you back on track.
Rent Out Your Home
If you can’t make enough from renting out a single room or rooms in your home, consider moving in with friends or family temporarily and hiring out your entire home in the interim. If you are in a hurry, you could try using a service such as Airbnb, which allows anyone to sign up and rent out their home quickly and simply.
Sell Your House
Obviously a last case scenario, but consider this; if you have to leave your home, wouldn’t you rather sell it on your own terms than on the banks’ terms? If the lender does repossess your home, then they will not only probably force you to pay the legal fees for the court case, but will do a shoddy job of selling your home, as they will want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. You can preempt this by selling the house yourself and using the profits to pay off your arrears (with hopefully enough left over to get you back on your feet), then you will almost certainly end up better off than if you’d have let it go on any further. If you need to sell your home due to repossesion, Principal Homebuyers can help you do this quickly, easily and ethically.
Fighting Your Case in Court Against Home Repossession
A court hearing is not the lender’s way of telling you they want you out, it’s a means of the court gathering evidence and making an informed decision based on that evidence. It’s up to you to make sure that the information the judge is privy to is weighed more heavily in your favour, and that you have done everything in your legal power to help your case. Below we’ll offer a few options you might want to consider when you receive a court summons, before you start panicking.
Ask The Court to Allow You to Stay
At your hearing, you can ask the court to suspend the possession order, adjourn the case or even delay removal from your home (by a maximum of 56 days). If you can keep to an arrers agreement and prove that you can stick to these payments, you might be able to convince the court to help you. When making their decision they will take into account the amount you owe, how many months you missed t, how much of your mortgage still needs to be paid and how much longer there is left on your mortgage term. To get the court on your side you can show them how you intend to deal with your arrears, explain why you are in arrears (medical certificates from your doctor or redundancy letters from your former employer would help a great deal here) or show the court all of the positive actions you’ve taken since the lender first informed you of their intentions to repossess your home.
Postponement or Dismissal
Outright dismissal is generally only granted if you have paid off your arrears completely, though you will probably have accrued legal costs by this point, which will be added to your mortgage. Postponing the case, however, is a little more realistic. You can ask for postponement if you can prove you will be able to pay off your arrears soon, if you can dispute the amount you owe, or if you are waiting on benefits that will help you pay off your arrears. You can also ask for a postponement if you’re selling your home.
Appealing the Decision
If you believe that the judge made a genuine mistake in the hearing, was misinformed or didn’t have all of the salient facts at his or her disposal, then you might be able to appeal their decision to a higher court. You’ll probably require decent legal advice here, and you’ll also need express permission from the judge, which you can ask for at the end of the original hearing. If the appeal is refused you can go above their head to a more senior judge. Take into account, however, that making an appeal will be costly if you are not on benefits or low pay, so only appeal if you are genuinely sure you think you have a case! You might have a case if you received unsuitable mortgage advice when taking out the initial loan, if the lender made some mistakes with their paperwork, if the lender didn’t follow all the rules of the court or if you have a valid dispute with the arrears amount.
If you follow all of the advice above, then you should be able to keep a roof over your head. Always remember, however, that the best measures are always preventative measures, so keep your finances in order and keep an eye on your mortgage payments. A good idea is to always leave at least the monthly amount due on your mortgage in your bank at all times. Even double that amount if necessary would be a safe bet. You can never be too safe or too secure!
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