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Can my house be repossessed if I can't afford my mortgage?

A lender cannot simply start a repossession court action without going through a number of processes first

Regulated financial advice and services

In these times of rising interest rates and cost of living pressures this is a big question for many people.

Ultimately if you don’t pay your mortgage your home can be repossessed, but lenders must go through a number of processes to do that and there are plenty of opportunities along the way to stop you losing your home.

It is important that you engage and communicate with your lender though. If you ignore them, even though dealing with debt can be distressing, then it’s much more likely that you will end up having your home repossessed.

Mortgage lenders are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority who have rules about treating customers fairly. Those rules are called the Mortgage Conduct of Business rules and they set out how lenders must treat borrowers in arrears. If a lender does not follow the rules you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Those rules require lenders to consider your alternatives before repossession.

Those could include delaying interest payments, adding arrears to the mortgage debt, extending the term or changing the type of mortgage.

You should also be allowed time to sell your home if you cannot come to a repayment arrangement.

A lender cannot simply start a repossession court action. Before they do, they must provide you with information including details of missed payments, the outstanding debt and the amount of arrears and charges.

They should notify you that they are starting repossession proceedings and advise you to contact your council for homeless help.

They should also keep a record of their contact with you.

Once a lender has decided to start court action for repossession, they also must follow a pre-action protocol for Mortgage arrears and the Court will expect them to demon state that they have done so.

That involves giving you details of your arrears, payments over the last 2 years, interest and charges that will be added, monthly instalments and the total mortgage debt. They should also give you information about mortgage arrears from Money Helper or Shelter.

The lender must consider any reasonable repayment plan that you suggest.

If you have applied for certain state benefits, help from the Council, mortgage protection insurance payments or a support for mortgage interest loan then your lender may delay court action.

But you may still have to show that you are seeking debt advice, expect your finances to improve or can meet mortgage payments with funding from benefits or insurance.

If you are trying to sell your home the lender must consider delaying court action. But you will have to show that the home is on the market for a reasonable price and authorise the lender to contact your estate agent and conveyancing solicitor. They may also ask to see the sales brochure and EPC as evidence.

If the lender starts court repossession proceedings and it gets as far as a hearing in front of a Judge, the Judge can still adjourn the hearing if the lender has not followed the protocols which of course include considering things like proposed repayment plans.

All of this means that there are lots of opportunities, right up to a repossession hearing, to reach an agreement with the lender that does not involve your home being repossessed. But all of that relies on you engaging with the lender. It is vital not to ignore correspondence and to speak to the lender throughout.

If you do find that court proceedings are started against you for Mortgage arrears, then you may want to seek the advice of a solicitor, search for a solicitor without having to provide any of your personal data at