Contact your lender and agree a plan
Mortgage lenders are keen to help their customers sort out any payment difficulties. Also, the law says they must treat you fairly and take your circumstances into account. They may be able to come to a payment arrangement with you.
If you're struggling to make the payments
Depending on your payment history and whether your difficulties are likely to be long or short term, your lender might agree to:
- reduce your payments for a set period
- charge you interest only for a while, if you've got a repayment mortgage (usually you pay capital and interest)
- give you a 'payment holiday'
- extend your mortgage term to reduce your payments
If you're already in arrears
If you've already fallen behind, your lender will suggest a way to pay off the arrears gradually, alongside your usual payments. If you can't meet the extra payments, you may be able to delay them for a while or add them to your loan. Again, it depends on your track record.
Always pay what you can
Pay as much as you can manage every month. Keeping up regular payments (even if they vary) shows that you're committed. Your lender's more likely to treat you sympathetically and you'll minimise the arrears charges too.
You can find more mortgage payment advice from the Housing Rights Service.
Help with your mortgage
Find out different ways in which you may be able to get help if you’re in difficulty with your mortgage payments.
Getting help to make your mortgage interest payments
Homeowners on certain benefits may be able to get help towards mortgage interest payments called Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)
Mortgages taken out on or after 31 October 2004
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates most mortgages taken out from this date. Under FCA rules lenders must treat you fairly and send you regular statements to keep you informed about your current arrears position.
There are also rules covering what the lender must do if it intends to repossess your home.
If you don't keep up your repayments
It's very important that you don't ignore any payment problems. Mortgages are 'priority debts', which you should pay off first as your lender could repossess your home and sell it to get their money.
Working out how much you can afford
Your lender can help you work out how much you can afford, but you may prefer to do this yourself. A good starting point is to write down all your income and outgoings (apart from the mortgage) and see what you've got left.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has an online budget calculator you can use.
Can I get financial help?
You've lost your job or you're too ill to work
If you've lost your job or you're too ill to work, check whether you've got 'mortgage protection insurance' to cover your payments. The insurance payments may not start straight away - so contact your insurer as soon as possible.
Benefits that might increase your income
It's worth checking if you're entitled to benefits such as Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or help with your rates. They can make a difference to your income and help with your mortgage payments.
Organisations that can give you free advice
Housing Rights Service
You can get free independent advice about mortgage difficulties from several organisations. They'll help you work out what you can realistically afford.
As a result of additional funding from the Department for Communities, Housing Rights Service is piloting a Mortgage Debt Advice Service which helps those who have financial problems that threaten their ability to remain in their homes.
The service provides specialist debt advice and, where necessary, representation to prevent repossession and enable people to remain in their existing home. It also assists those who are not able to retain their home to find suitable alternative accommodation.
This free, independent and confidential service can be accessed by dropping in between 9.30 am and 5.00 pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday and between 9.30 am and 8.00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
You can also telephone the Housing Rights Service:
- 028 90245640
- Housing Rights Service
The service also has an online virtual adviser feature and a dedicated service telephone number:
- 0300 323 0310
- Housing Advice NI website(external link)
- Citizens Advice Northern Ireland
- Step Change Debt Charity
- Advice NI
Mortgage shortfalls after repossession
If your lender repossesses your home, they'll sell it to get their money back. But if it sells for less than you owe them, they may want you to pay back the rest of the debt (the 'mortgage shortfall').
But they can try to recover the debt for a long time - up to 12 years.