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In the first quarter of 2015, Bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015, that is a huge increase, (51%), than in the same period five years ago, according to The Guardian.
In the most recent report form the Council of Mortgage Lenders, repossessions in the first quarter of 2016 fell to their lowest on record. The data report shows that repossessions fell to 2,100 with 1,500 home-owner properties and 600 buy-to-let, (Source, Landlord NEWS.co.uk).
CML director general Paul Smee believes that lenders are working effectively to help their borrowers through periods of difficulty, and believes early communication is key. Could this account for the drop in repossessions?
If you are not keeping up with mortgage repayments, the first thing to do to enable you to postpone or stop your home from being repossessed is to get some advice. The Government advice is to check in the first instance if you are entitled to legal aid. You might get some help with costs, check with:
- Civil Legal Advice Help Line
- Citizens Advice
- National Debtline
- Local council
It is important that you do both of the above, speak to your lender and check your legal status. Before a lender can repossess your home they must carry out an assessment and report to you. They must tell you how much you owe; look at ways of changing the way you pay your mortgage, respond accordingly to any offer of payment you make, give you a valid reason for turning down your offer of payment within a ten day period, give you a reasonable amount of time to consider any proposal that they may make, give you up to 15 days written warning if they plan to stare court action, they must inform you of the date and time of a repossession hearing, they must let your council know within 5 days of getting notification of the date of the court hearing, in case you need to apply to the council as homeless. This information can be found on the Governments website.
If the mortgage lender starts a repossession process against you, the court will send you a blank defence form. This form is for you to use to explain why you think the lender should not repossess your home, it should be returned within fourteen days.
You will also receive from the court, copies of the claim forms for possessing your home, these will be filled in by your lender, court hearing date and the court’s contact details.
If your income is low, you may be able to get legal aid. Free legal advice on the day is a last minute legal help under the Housing Possession Court Duty scheme. It runs in county courts in England and Wales, you will be provided with a specialist adviser on the day of your hearing., this will give you some representation and could help you to come to an arrangement with your mortgage lender to pay off your debts. These schemes come under the local council remit, or the court where your case is being heard.
At the repossession hearing which normally take place in a judge’s chambers, not usually in a court room. You can take an adviser or a friend to the hearing, they must be an adult. If you do not attend the hearing, it is more than likely that the judge will give your lender the right to evict you. The agreement you reach in court must be adhered to or you could still risk losing your home.
Your lender can only repossess your home with permission of the court. There are several outcomes, including:
- Outright possession order
- Suspended possession order
- Money order
- Possession order with money judgement
- Time order
You can appeal a judge’s decision, so seek legal advice. If you want to appeal right away, you can ask the judge at the end of the possession hearing. If he refused, it is your right to ask a more senior judge.
If your home is repossessed your local council must give you advice to help find you a new home. Emergency accommodation may be provided if your circumstances dictate it.
If you refuse to move after a possession order or “order of possession” then your lender can ask the courts bailiffs to remove you from your home.
In some circumstances it may be possible for a court to stop or delay the repossession. Contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345, (people on benefits, or who are on a low income maybe able to get some help form a legal aid lawyer). Having young children, illness or a disability, may delay the bailiffs but you must seek advice…
If your circumstances have changed, new job, the ability to pay off the debt etc. You may be able to stop the possession, always check your legal status, and advice all parties concerned of the change in circumstances.