When facing a house repossession court hearing a level of anxiety and nervousness is to be expected, nevertheless people normally find out that the process isn’t as terrifying as they had first expected.
It’s important that you attend your house repossession hearing, because if you don’t, the judge will likely rule against you.
It’s advisable that you get advice from a specialist, like a legal aid or solicitor, before the hearing. If you’re not able to do so, some county courts will give you an advisor on the hearing day under the (HPCDS) (Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme). Nevertheless, it’s better to get advice beforehand if it’s possible.
Bring any evidence you have to the home repossession hearing and return and check any documents the county court sends to you. It also advisable that you prepare notes of what you would like to say at the repossession hearing.
What Happens At A Home Repossession County Court Hearing?
The home repossession case is heard by a judge and takes place in private. This may take place in the courtroom or in the judge’s chambers. The judge will check if everybody in the room is there for the correct hearing.
If you have an adviser who isn’t a solicitor, he/she can speak on your behalf if they’re part of the duty scheme of the court. If your adviser isn’t part of the court’s duty scheme, he/she should ask the Judge for permission to speak on your behalf.
If you do not have a solicitor or adviser, you can normally take a family member or friend with you into the court room to assist you.
You should ask the judge for permission, if you would like your friend or family member to speak on your behalf.
The judge will listen to the evidence that has been presented by the lenders’ solicitor and also listen to what you have to say before making any decision.
How the county court makes a decision
Your lender’s solicitor will explains what court order your lender wants, for instance a possession order because you won’t or can’t deal with your arrears.
You or your adviser tells the county court your arguments against the repossession.
You or your adviser can ask the lender or their solicitor questions.
The judge might ask your lender’s solicitor or you questions.
The judge will then make a decision based on the evidence presented and what the law says. The Judge can only act within the law and has to balance the legal right of the lender to recover the interest and money they’re owed against your right to be treated fairly by the lender and to a fair hearing. The county court sees a home repossession as a last resort, so you should explore all the options you may have. After reviewing your case the Judge may come to any one of the following decisions:
Adjourn the case
An adjournment is when the judge decides to put the case on hold. Below are some of the reasons why the hearing could be adjourned:
- If your lender does not turn up at the house repossession hearing
- To give you time to make a formal complaint to the FOS (Financial Ombudsman Service)
- To allow you or/and your lender more time to give more information
- A general adjournment without a date being set for another court hearing. This can happen if you’ve already paid off all the arrears by the time of the court hearing. In case you fall into arrears, the lender can begin the proceedings from where they left off, instead of starting from the beginning.
This means that the court has stopped the court action on the grounds that the lender has no case against you. Reasons for case dismissal can include:
- The lender hasn’t followed the right procedure for bringing the repossession case to court.
- There are presently no arrears on the loan.
- Your lender or their representative doesn’t attend the hearing.
Depending on the circumstances, the lender may decide to reapply for another house repossession hearing.
Outright Possession Order
Under the possession order you’re required to leave the house by the specified date (usually twenty eight days after the court hearing). If you don’t leave the house within the specified time the lender can apply to the county court for a ‘warrant for possession’, so that he/she can have you evicted by a bailiff.
Suspended Possession Order
This is an agreement that’s reached between the lender and yourself, to repay all the arrears that you owe, usually by installments. But this is still a type of repossession-order, so if you don’t keep to the agreed payment plan or don’t sell your home within the specified period of time the lender can have you evicted by a bailiff without any further hearings
This means that the judge has changed the amount you are supposed to pay on your mortgage for a given period of time by:
- Delaying the next time you will have to make a payment
- Changing the interest rate on the mortgage
- Changing your loan repayment amount. This is usually used in repossession cases where the financial difficulty is only temporary.
A time order is normally only made on certain types of loans such as second mortgage or a secured loan. If you do not make the payments, your lender can ask the county court to evict you.
This order enables the lender to claim all money that is owed to them including arrears, mortgage and legal and court costs. If the lender sells the home at a house auction, the sale may cover the amount set out in the money judgment, if it does not you will have to pay the shortfall. You must pay the lender the total amount that is set out in the money order. If you do not make these payments:
- Bailiffs might take away things you own
- Money may be deducted from your bank account or wages
The lender cannot use a money order to evict you from the house. If you do not make payments on time as set out in the money order, the lender may decide to go to court again. Consequently, the judge may decide to give him/her a possession order.
Possession order with money judgment
A money judgment is normally added to the possession order. It means that you owe a certain amount of money which is usually made up of:
- Court fees
- The lender’s legal costs
- Your mortgage arrears
A money judgment will not apply if:
- Your lender sells your house and its sale price is more than the total amount that’s set out in the money judgment
- You pay all your mortgage arrears and any other amount that’s set out in the suspended order
If you do not pay the total amount that was set out in the money judgment, your lender can ask the county court to carry out the instructions in the judgment and the possession order.
There`re certain circumstances under which the judge can amend /suspend a ‘Warrant for Possession’ or ‘Outright Possession Order’, these include:
- You didn’t attend the repossession hearing for a valid reason eg. illness, didn’t receive the court papers.
- You’re close to completing your repayment on the arrears.
- You’re in the process of selling the house, and have nearly secured a sale.
- You’re applying for the Mortgage Rescue scheme.
- You have children.
- You cannot find another house and you’ll become homeless.