I’ve received a Notice of Possession hearing letter – what next?
If you’ve fallen behind on payments for your home, and haven’t come to a mutual agreement to manage that with your mortgage company (or, as I often experience, have stopped opening letters from them some time before this point), then you might find yourself in receipt of a letter informing you that your lender has applied for a possession order, or a very chunky envelope containing all the details of your mortgage arrears, and requesting your attendance at a court hearing (Notice of possession hearing letter).
The court date is usually around six weeks after the date of the letter, and its purpose is to determine if you can remain in possession of your home, or if it will be repossessed.
As terrifying as this sounds it isn’t the end of the road – there’s still lots of time and plenty you can do between receiving this letter, and going to court. I have put together this blog in the hope of offering some guidance through that process.
First thing’s first – and I cannot stress this enough. If you find yourself with one of these letters, please know that it is not a hopeless situation.
Finding support if your home is threatened with repossession.
I always direct people in the situation to the Citizens Advice Bureau as a first point of contact. They know EVERYTHING you will need to know, and their sole purpose is to help people in situations like this – so please get booked in with them ASAP.
My next piece of advice would be to talk to ANYONE. Ideally, your family or friends. Bottling up serious issues like this is a terrible idea – just sitting down and reading through the paperwork with a supportive friend can make the whole process so much better.
I want to reassure you that this happens – sadly – much more than you might realise. And though it might seem like a hopeless situation when you get one of these letters – it isn’t…
In 2021, only around 7% of Mortgage Possession Claims resulted in repossession.*
If you don’t wish to share with friends or family, please turn to a properly equipped government-registered debt charity – be wary of debt management businesses. These are designed for profit and won’t have you best interests at heart.
Here’s some suggestions of reputable places to turn –
If you just need to talk or need mental health support:
The Samaritans – Call 116 123 for free
Andy’s man club is a weekly meet for Men who need to talk. The Southend meeting is held at Southend Football club and they meet every Monday at 7pm (excl. Bank holidays)
Mind helplines – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/
A national telephone helpline which gives free advice and a self-help pack to people with debt problems.
free credit counselling is provided by this charitable organisation. It offers an initial interview by telephone or in person and then reviews your debt history and provides a recommendation.
Payplan is a free debt management service which will assess your financial position, suggest a repayment plan and approach your creditors with it.
If you just need to talk or need mental health support:
A weekly meet for Men who need to talk. The Southend meeting is held at Southend Football club and they meet every Monday at 7pm (excl. Bank holidays). Just turn up and listen if you’re not ready to talk yet.
A bank of useful resources to help with Mental health concerns.
What happens between receiving a Notice of Possession Hearing letter and going to court?
You will usually have around 6 weeks from receiving this letter to going to court. There is lots you can do during this time to fight your possession order:
1 – Can you agree a repayment plan for the arrears?
At this point it’s unlikely you’ll make much progress in speaking with your lender, so your first port of call is to go through all your finances and look at whether you will be able to offer a repayment plan. Take a look at the debt charities listed above who can help you with this, or go through your finances (I always recommend asking a friend or family member to do this with you to make the process less overwhelming) and work out a budget.
Check that you are receiving any and all benefits to which you’re entitled (especially important if your circumstances have recently changed in order to create these circumstances.)
It’s important that any repayment plan your offer is realistic, because – if it’s agreed to – you will likely be placed on a suspended repossession order. This means that if you fall behind on the agreed repayments, your home will be repossessed without going through the court process again.
2 – Put the property on the market
Prior to putting the house on the market, ensure you have worked out all of your finances. You need to include any charges against your home in your calculations so you know exactly how much you need to sell the property for. You should gather all of your financial information, plus details of the house sale ready for your court order. The judge will usually suspend the Repossession order for up to 4 months if it’s determined that your house sale will go through by this point.
3 – Make a plan for after your home has been repossessed
Make arrangements for your next property if you do not think you will be able to keep your home (it’s good to be prepared just in case though). If the court rules against you, you usually have 28 days to vacate the property, so ensure you have looked into where you will go after this.
- If you think you will be homeless after repossession, you can ask the Council for help.
- Look at Renting privately. Ensure that the landlord will accept you under your current circumstances
- Ensure all eligible benefits are in place to help with future rent
- It is very difficult to get a mortgage after being repossessed but not impossible, you will pay a larger deposit or higher interest rate in this situation. If you will be looking to purchase another property you must start this process immediately.
4 – Check that the mortgage company followed all the rules
You can argue against the possession order if the mortgage company haven’t followed all the rules. They must:
- tell you how much you owe
- consider a request from you to change the way you pay your mortgage
- respond to any offer of payment you make
- give you reasons for turning down your offer of payment within 10 days
- give you a reasonable amount of time to consider any proposal they make
- give you 15 days’ written warning if they plan to start court action
- tell you the date and time of a repossession hearing
- 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
Possession Court Hearing – what to expect on the day
The day of your court hearing is undoubtedly stressful, but being prepared will help to manage this.
- On arriving at the court you will go through security
- You’ll be directed to a waiting area until your case is heard
- You may be approached by your mortgage company’s solicitor at this point for an informal chat about what you want to propose in court. In my experience, these solicitors are always friendly and helpful – although they are representing your mortgage provider, they are freelancers and have no personal vendetta against the property owner! Like everyone in the proceedings, they don’t want the outcome of the hearing for you to be evicted.
- The courtroom itself will be different depending on where your case is being heard. (I think that the courtroom at Southend Magistrates Court looks like an old man’s front room!) You’ll find the judge at the front, your mortgage company’s solicitor, and a clerk who records the proceedings.
- The judge will review the evidence provided by your mortgage company, hear their solicitor and then ask you to respond. Don’t interrupt the judge or solicitor at any point, instead take a pen and paper to note down any objections you have to the evidence, and present it when it’s your turn to speak.
When I am purchasing a property which is under a possession court order, I often attend these hearings with the property owner – for moral support and guidance, and as evidence for the court that the property is being purchased.
Possession Court Hearing – what to have ready on the day
- Paperwork – keep all letters together from the court and mortgage company, as well as all your financial/budget information
- Evidence of your ability to partake in a repayment plan
- Evidence of your intention to sell the property
- Directions/travel plans to the court. It’s important that you’re punctual, and time spent rushing or looking for a parking space will make the day even more stressful
- Smart clothes – it’s important that you show that you take the court order seriously and respect the court and judge
- A pen and pad – take notes of any objections you have through the hearing, as well as any details of a suspended possession order which are given (as these details can take several weeks to arrive in the post after the hearing)
Possession Court Hearing – Potential Outcomes
The most common outcomes of the court hearings are:
Outright possession order
This gives the lender a legal right to own your home on the date given in the order and is sometimes called an ‘order for possession’. This is usually 28 days after your court hearing.
If you do not leave your home by the date given in the order, your lender can ask the court to evict you. It is not impossible to appeal this successfully, but it gets harder to do this the closer it gets to the repossession date.
Suspended possession order
This means that if you make regular payments as set out in the order, you can stay in your home.
If you do not make the payments, your lender can ask the court to evict you.
I hope this helps you to understand the process if you’ve received a court order letter for possession of your home. I’ve helped many people in this situation and I can assure you that your situation isn’t helpless when it comes through your day – get organised and you stand a chance of fighting it.
I’m Joanne. I’ve lived and breathed property for longer than I care to remember! This blog is to provide advice and support with problems surrounding property, and life in general.
Previously on the blog…
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Upon marriage, a couple had moved into the house that one of them owned, and rented out the one that the partner had owned. The case at a glance: A couple were happily renting out their second property to a family They both lost their jobs in quick succession...read more
After a Marital split, the husband in the couple had moved out and stopped paying the mortgage. Wendy's case at a glance: Husband had left and stopped paying mortgage £30,000 mortgage arrears Three autistic children meant she needed to stay where she was for...read more
A lovely lady had inherited her Sister’s house in Westcliff after she sadly passed away - a bungalow with serious damp problems. Lucy’s case at a glance: Inherited a property from her sister Couldn't afford to keep the property running Didn’t understand the...read more