House repossession can be one of the most traumatic challenges your family ever has to face. Taking every step you can to avoid this problem is an excellent idea. This article will explain the details of the repossession process and show you where and how you can take action to avert it. Whether you have already fallen into arrears or you are just beginning to struggle with your mortgage repayments, the advice provided here can help.
The basic mechanics of a mortgage include the understanding that the lender who helps you buy your home has partial ownership of the property until your loan is fully repaid. Failing to meet your mortgage contract’s repayment obligations could place you in arrears and entitle your lender to repossess your home. If repossession of your house proceeds, your lender will evict you from the property and then sell it in order to recoup the outstanding debt on your mortgage.
All of the circumstances leading to repossession will be spelled out in your mortgage contract. While the specifics can vary from loan to loan, in all cases, repossession only becomes a danger if you miss mortgage payments or fall into arrears. This makes it vitally important to respond to your mortgage provider if they start contacting you regarding payment problems. Remember that repossession is always a lender’s last resort; they will pursue other means of settling your debt before resorting to court action. Review the specifics involving arrears and repossession in your mortgage contract and remain aware of them. Lenders most often set the line for repossession at missing four payment instalments. Be aware that this is NOT a universal figure, though! High-risk lenders can and often do write more stringent contracts. Some contracts allow lenders to start foreclosure proceedings if you miss as few as two payments.
If repossession does become inevitable, you still have a step you can take to reduce the cost and stress of the process: voluntary repossession. Prior to repossession, your lender must give you the opportunity to sell your home. This may not be possible, as many properties in this situation have negative equity and are thus unattractive to buyers. If you choose to go through voluntary repossession, you can stop your mortgage payments, move out of the property of your own volition, and turn it over to the mortgage lender. So long as you have satisfactory accommodations arranged, this spares you from the hassle of trying to sell the property yourself.
Stopping the Repossession of Your Home
When you start getting notices about arrears and foreclosure from your lender, you still have time to avert repossession. Here are steps worth taking:
- Talk to your lender: As mentioned above, taking you to court is your lender’s last resort. This is not a matter of commercial policy but an actual legal guarantee. Your lender has an obligation to discuss your financial situation with you and at least provide the opportunity to pay your arrears. Note that your lender is also required to provide a full and accurate accounting of your payment history going back at least two years.
- Modify the terms of your mortgage: One of the options to discuss with your lender is the possibility of changing the terms or details of your mortgage. Restructuring your payment obligations, extending the mortgage term, capitalizing the arrears, or even negotiating a break in your repayment schedule are all possibilities.
- Pay towards your arrears: Any money you can put towards your arrears demonstrates your good faith intent to meet your mortgage obligations. Even if you don’t have the resources to pay in full, partial payments improve your relationship with your lender. They may also be counted in your favour if your lender does end up taking you to court.
- Start renting your home: Additional income can help ease the financial burden of a mortgage, and you may be able to get some by renting all or part of your property. Check your mortgage contract; you may need to get approval from your lender to do this. Remember that you also need to account for the tax obligations of any extra income.
- Seek financial assistance: A range of different circumstances may entitle you to benefits or other help. Unemployment, health problems, and low income are all potential qualifications. After you claim benefits, you may be able to secure additional help via support for mortgage interest and/or universal credit help with housing. You should keep your lender fully informed about applications for financial help. They should not start court action if you have a good chance of receiving assistance.
- Check your insurance: Certain financial difficulties, like illness, injury, or redundancy, may actually be covered by insurance. Consult your lender and see if you have mortgage protection insurance. This form of insurance covers your mortgage expenses if you lose access to a stable form of income; most policies pay out 125 percent of mortgage costs.
How Repossession Works
The first step in the repossession process begins with written notification from your lender regarding arrears. This is the ideal stage for negotiation with your lender. The process can be stopped here if you come to a mutually agreeable arrangement. If your lender is not satisfied, they will progress to issuing a second warning in advance of court action.
Without any alternative arrangements, your lender will then apply for a court order to repossess. Applying for the order costs your lender £325, and they must explain why they should be granted possession of the property. An alternative here is an accelerated possession order, which is slightly more expensive (£355).
The matter will be decided by a judge in a court hearing. You will receive advanced notification of the hearing date. You also have to fill out the defense form provided by the court. If things progress to this stage, getting legal advice is a good idea.
The judge’s verdict will be based on evidence provided by both you and your lender. The typical options available to the judge include deciding in favor of repossession, issuing a suspended possession order, adjourning the case, or dismissing it entirely.
If a possession order is granted by the court, you will receive a fixed amount of time (usually 28 days). The judge may extend this up to 56 days in special circumstances. Paying the court costs usually becomes your responsibility, and your lender typically adds these to your already-outstanding debt.
If you fail to meet the obligations set out in court (either vacating the property or meeting a repayment agreement), you will be removed by bailiffs. This requires another court action by your lender – securing a repossession warrant. Once eviction by the bailiffs is scheduled, you will be notified of the scheduled date in writing.
After you leave, your mortgage lender will sell the property. You continue to accumulate interest on your outstanding mortgage debt until the property is sold to a new owner. When the property is sold, the lender uses the proceeds to account for your debt. If there is more money left over, you receive it. If the sale does not cover your debt completely (a more likely scenario), you will still need to pay the balance to your lender.
Stopping Repossession with a Quick House Sale
If you’re facing repossession and you know you don’t have the resources to clear your arrears or repay your mortgage, it may be time to sell your home. If your home currently has negative equity, you need your lender’s permission to sell. A quick home sale will unlock your equity, but it can be hard to arrange. You need an estate agent and solicitor, and finding a willing buyer may take months. This process can be expensive, too.