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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Don't ignore the problem

If your income isn't stretching far enough and you're worried that you might miss a mortgage payment, don’t wait for your lender to contact you. Let your lender know what’s happening.

A good lender will want to know if you’re having problems, so that you can work together towards a resolution before the situation gets any worse.  There are certain steps that your lender has to take before you can be brought to court.  If you are in arrears with your mortgage, you will get letters about the arrears from your lender, your lender's solicitor or from the court.

Letters from your lender

Don't ignore letters about your arrears from your lender. These letters aren't going to stop coming and the sooner you address the issue, the more options you may have. If you get a letter or a phone call from your lender, reply. Take time to really work out your finances. This will help you understand your arrears and see if you can suggest a repayment plan to your lender.

Your lender will usually send you a letter reminding you that you have missed one or two payments. This letter will normally ask you to:

  • confirm how you are going to catch up on your missed payments
  • contact your lender to discuss your situation.

Your lender will probably write to you again if the arrears increase or the lender can't accept your proposal to clear the debt. The second letter usually says that solicitors will get involved if you don't clear your arrears or contact the lender to explain how you'll clear them in the next 7 days. 

It is better to negotiate with your lender before solicitors are involved. You can get advice from Housing Rights if you're not sure how to start these negotiations. 

Letters from your lender's solicitor

The solicitor will usually send you a letter giving you seven days to either pay off all your arrears or make a proposal for doing so. This letter is sometimes referred to as ‘Notice to Quit’. While it may say that you have 7 days to repay or leave your house, it is only the first stage in the legal process of taking possession of your home.

If you have been sent out ‘Notice to Quit’, your lender’s solicitor can begin court action without any further warning if they are not satisfied with your response. You may feel overwhelmed by the stern language in the legal letters, but do not give up. Try to negotiate at every step of the way and get help from Housing Rights if you're not confident doing this on your own.

The court is more likely to be sympathetic to your situation if you've made a real effort to sort things out before legal action begins, even if you weren’t able to come to an agreement with the lender.

Letters from the court

If your lender has started legal action to recover the money you owe or repossess your home you will get letters from the court to let you know.  It’s not always easy to distinguish a court letter from a solicitor's letter. If you're unsure about what your letter means, call Housing Rights.

Prepare for your court hearing by watching our video, which shows what happens at a court hearing, and by understanding your options when facing court action.  Even if you get a letter asking you to attend a court hearing, it's still not too late to save your home. You can stop repossession at any stage of the process.

Talk to your lender

You should talk to your lender as soon as possible. If you talk to the lender about the problem, rather than trying to ignore it, the lender may be easier to deal with. Many banks have special teams who work with people who are having difficulties with their mortgage payments. Lenders are generally willing to discuss options and proposals, even if you are already behind with your payments, and will usually try help you find a solution that will work both ways.

Your lender has to take specific steps before taking you to court.  Make sure that you keep records of all communication you have with your lender and keep copies of all the letters you send and receive. 

Don't be put off because you think your case is hopeless. There is often a solution, no matter how complicated the situation may seem. If you haven't decided what you are going to do about the problem, explain to your lender that you are going to get specialist advice about your options. This may give you more time to get to grips with your debts.