Advice to avoid losing your home

If you're behind with your mortgage payments, the lender can only take repossession action as the last resort. Your lender has to follow certain steps before they can repossess your home. These steps are outlined in the ‘pre-action protocol’.

Getting help and advice about mortgage debt

If you cannot pay your mortgage and you're worried about repossession, Housing Rights has specialist advisers who can help.  Their free service provides: 

  • advice
  • negotiation
  • court representation in certain circumstances

Pre-action protocol

The pre-action protocol sets out what you and your lender should do before your lender takes action to repossess your home. It applies to most residential mortgages. The protocol can help lenders and borrowers avoid court proceedings. At a court hearing , you and your lender will need to prove you have followed the protocol.

Your lender must:

  • tell you what you owe and any charges you’ll have to pay on your debt
  • consider any reasonable request from you to change how you pay your mortgage
  • respond to any offer of payment you make
  • give you their reasons for turning down your offer of payment within ten working days

If you don’t keep to any agreement you make with your lender, the lender must warn you in writing that they plan to start court action. They should send you a letter giving you 15 working days’ notice of the action they will take.

Making a claim on mortgage payment protection policy

Your lender may postpone repossession action if you make a claim on your mortgage payment protection policy. This is an insurance policy that covers your repayments if you become ill or lose your job. If you make a claim, you may be able to cover some or all your mortgage repayments.

To avoid repossession, you’ll have to satisfy your lender that you are eligible for payment under that insurance. You’ll also need to show you can make up any monthly repayments that aren't covered by the policy.

Complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service about your lender

If you think your lender has treated you unfairly, you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). The pre-action protocol allows a lender to postpone repossession action when the FOS is dealing with a complaint.

Your lender can decide to continue with repossession action while the FOS deals with your complaint. They must give you five working days’ notice of their plans.

The FOS can only look at how the lender dealt with your case. You’ll still need to get advice about the action your lender may take.

Taking steps to sell your home

Your lender may agree to delay action if you show you are taking reasonable steps to sell your home. You can get help from an independent adviser to make sure you are taking the right steps to sell your home.

You’ll need to tell your lender about progress of the house sale. If your lender doesn’t agree to you selling your home, they should give you their reasons at least five working days before starting any action.

Sale and rent schemes

Be cautious about sale and rent back agreements. In a 'sale and rent' scheme, a company offers to buy your home and rent it to you using a "sale and rent back" agreement.  If you sell your house through one of these schemes, you may pay off your debt but you no longer own your home.  

When you sell your home using a sale and rent scheme:

  • your new landlord may increase your rent, making it too expensive
  • your new landlord can ask you to leave after six or 12 months
  • you may not be able to claim Housing Benefit if you have a low income or you lose your job
  • you may be evicted, if the company that bought your home gets into financial problems and can’t pay the mortgage

Usually sale and rent schemes offer less than the actual value of your home. Before entering a sale and rent agreement, get advice from an independent adviser.

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