Taking action to repossess a property involves a number of stages, which can take a few weeks or months.
There are special rules about the procedures that must be followed at each stage – if things aren’t done correctly, you may be able to stop or delay the eviction.
Get advice immediately and keep negotiating with your lender throughout the process. If you are in arrears you should try to pay as much as you can on a regular basis, even after court action has been started.
Reasons for repossession
There has to be a legal reason for your home to be repossessed. The most common reason is if you have mortgage arrears or arrears on another secured loan taken out against your home.
Your lender must follow special rules before taking you to court for mortgage arrears. These include:
- only taking court action as a last resort and after other options haven’t worked
- giving you a reasonable chance to pay the arrears
- giving you details of your payments over the past 2 years, the amount of your arrears, how much is left to pay on your mortgage and the interest or charges that will be added
- referring you for debt advice if needed
- considering any proposals you make for repaying your mortgage arrears and, if they don’t accept your proposals, writing to you within 10 working days to explain why.
If your lender doesn’t follow these rules, you might be able to stop or delay the eviction.
Notice from your lender
If your lender is not happy with your response to any pre-action letters, they should write to you again, warning you that they are going to start court action. They can then apply to your local county court for a possession order.
Receiving a claim for possession from the court
Once your lender has started or issued a possession claim, the court will write to you telling you that your lender has started a claim and when a hearing is to take place. When you hear from the court, if you have not already done so, you should get advice immediately about what to do next and make sure that you reply to the claim. Take a look at our page on Getting ready for court.
At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence from you and your lender before making a decision. The judge will decide if you have any defence to the claim.
The judge may decide to:
- adjourn the case
- dismiss the case
- allow you to stay in the property provided you keep to certain conditions, such as repaying the arrears in instalments,
- give you time to sell your property to avoid repossession, or
- decide that you should be evicted.
Our page on what can the court do? explains what each of these mean.
The court order
If the judge decides that you should be evicted, the court order will set a date for you to leave. If you have not left by that date, your lender must apply to the court for a bailiff’s warrant. If your lender applies for a warrant, the bailiffs will write to tell you when the eviction is to take place. On the date of the eviction, the bailiff will come to the property and if you are still in the property, remove you from your home.