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I’m in mortgage arrears and due in court: How do I avoid being evicted?

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I’m due to appear in court next week about not paying my mortgage. I have been unable to repay my monthly mortgage repayments after losing my job six months ago and am concerned that my family is going to lose its home. 

I’ve been too scared to discuss the full extent of my financial difficulties with my lender – indeed, I’ve suffered plenty of sleepless nights as a result – and now find myself facing a judge as I’ve been unable to agree a new payment plan. 

What do I need to tell the court to ensure I can keep a roof over my head while I continue looking for work? AS

Appearing in court may provide you an opportunity to avoid being evicted, explains ex-judge Stephen Gold

Appearing in court may provide you an opportunity to avoid being evicted, explains ex-judge Stephen Gold

MailOnline’s Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: I’m sorry to hear about your circumstances.

While the prospect of a court appearance may well be distressing, it may provide you with an opportunity to save the roof over your head. 

If you are working hard to find a new job and are able to show evidence in court of this, there are options that a judge can use to support you.

We speak to a former judge about what information you need to share in court to help avoid being evicted and having your home repossessed. 

Stephen Gold, ex-judge and author, replies: I sympathise, but head burying under the sand is a bad idea when it comes to mortgage arrears, and engagement with the lender when difficulties arise is important. 

Some lenders actually have a heart: not exactly cuddly, though reasonable.

More often than not, there is a real chance that the home can be saved. Remember, too, that it is the court that decides at a hearing whether or not you must leave and not the lender and so ensure you participate at the hearing. 

Personal attendance is the best so that the judge can see themselves how seriously you are taking the situation. Also, speak to the free independent expert adviser who should be available at court and who may also be able to accompany you into the hearing and address the judge on your behalf. 

If it is impossible to personally attend, ask the court in advance to allow you to take part by phone or video.

Show your good faith by paying the lender whatever you can afford before the hearing, even though that is very close. Don’t ask the lender permission to do this and take to court written evidence that you have paid.

When you get to court the lender’s representative will almost certainly seek you out to discuss what you have in mind. No harm in going along with a chat. They won’t bite – usually. 

You might just be able to negotiate a course that suits you. Don’t be intimidated by them. As I said, the court decides.

If you are struggling with your home in tough times, read This is Money’s guide to what to do if you can’t pay your mortgage.

Those due to appear in court should provide evidence of how they intend to clear their debts

Those due to appear in court should provide evidence of how they intend to clear their debts

One commodity you will need to escape eviction is money. Not necessarily in your hands, but in the pipeline. That’s money to clear the arrears and to pay ongoing mortgage instalments.

It could be coming from a new job, from your father-in-law or from your son who is about to start paying his way. 

Have evidence of the intended source of this money with you at court, ideally in the form of the human being who is set to come up with it.

The lender may protest to the judge: ‘Unemployed for six months. Why should we suppose he won’t be unemployed for six years?’

Explain to the judge why you are confident – and look and sound confident – that the tide is about to turn. Ideally, write out a CV and show it to the judge. Do your best to at least fix up some job interviews before the hearing and show the judge evidence of them.

If you may be eligible for the Government support for mortgage interest scheme, which would assist towards your commitment and have not yet applied, make that application immediately and tell the judge about it.

Although the judge will wish to see the arrears paid off… they do have power to allow right up to the end of the mortgage term, even if it is 25 years, for this to be done

Retired judge Stephen Gold

Perhaps you have been unable to secure employment in the same sector in which you were formerly involved. If it be the case, persuade the judge that you are prepared to take work in any industry if it means keeping your home. Prepare a budget on the best and worst case scenarios that will hopefully demonstrate that, once back at work, you could keep up current payments and pay off the arrears within the lifetime of the mortgage.

Although the judge will wish to see the arrears paid off as soon as possible, usually by monthly instalments, they do have power to allow right up to the end of the mortgage term, even if it is 25 years, for this to be done.

An estate agent’s assessment of the value of your home, or a ballpark figure obtained online, could be a clincher for you. If the gap between the value and what it would take to pay off the mortgage is comfortable, that could make the difference between eviction and being allowed to stay put because it would eliminate or reduce any potential prejudice to your lender. 

If you have sufficient equity in your home, the judge will be able to say to themselves: ‘If I allow the borrower to stay and they default again, the lender shouldn’t be out of pocket because the likely equity can soak up the fresh arrears.’

Let the judge see the valuation, although if it shows your interest is effectively worth a tenner or less, leave it behind on the bus to court.

The judge will usually have the option of saving you from eviction if that would be justified, whether you have a repayment or interest-only mortgage or a mixture of the two, or are in arrears with a first, second or eleventh mortgage. 

What are the available options? 

The judge will usually have the option of saving you from eviction. Here is the order menu from which the judge can pick:

  • Order you to leave within 28 days
  • Order you to leave in a longer period than 28 days if there are special reasons for extending time (for example, because you are trying to sell your home – see more on that below)
  • Order you to leave but suspend (paralyse) the possession order so that you can stay put, for as long as you keep up the current instalments and the arrears instalments that are specified

If you satisfy the judge that you have a reasonable prospect of securing employment which would justify the making of a suspended possession order, the probability is that they will adjourn the hearing for at least 28 days to enable you to get that work and prove you are in it next time.

If you perform really well, they may make a suspended possession order there and then in the expectation of you getting the job, and fix the first payment date to coincide with when you will have wages in the bank.

The lender’s representative may say to the judge that they cannot interfere with your contractual obligation to pay what you had agreed when you took out the mortgage on the dates that were set. 

However, remind the judge that section 36 of the Administration of Justice Act 1970 permits the court to allow monthly instalments to go unpaid for a period, if it appears likely that the borrower will be able to pay those sums within a reasonable period.

A judge has the power to allow right up to the end of the mortgage term, be it 25 years or whatever, for this to be done.

Although a judge will wish to see the arrears paid off, they have power to allow right up to the end of the mortgage term for this to be done

The court will not be able to save you if your mortgage required you to repay the lender on demand – such as a mortgage securing a bank overdraft – or if your mortgage term has come to an end – for example, if you had an endowment mortgage for 25 years, which is at its end, and what the life company pays out is less than the mortgage debt.

On the brighter side, if it is a second, third or subsequent mortgage that is in arrears, the court usually has broader powers to assist you and can make a so-called ‘time order’ to cater for temporary difficulties.

These include reducing the monthly instalments, relieving you for the time being from having to pay anything off the arrears and even allowing payments to be made after the mortgage term has ended. The powers may not exist for certain mortgages taken out before April 6, 2008.

Can I still choose to sell the property?  

You may have reluctantly decided that you cannot afford the mortgage and that the property has to be sold. Much better to sell yourself than have your lender sell – probably at auction and maybe to a vulture – after you have been evicted.

You have the right to sell at any point before you are evicted, provided the price will pay off the mortgage. The mortgage arrears and the court case make no difference to that.

It is not a brilliant idea to volunteer your difficulties to a prospective buyer, however, or they may lie in wait until after you are out and attempt to scoop up your home for peanuts. 

Ask the judge to adjourn the hearing to give you an opportunity to sell. Your chances of the judge agreeing will be enhanced if you have already placed the property with an estate agent and show proof. 

Should the judge refuse an adjournment they may still be prepared to allow you longer in the property, before you have to leave. You have the right to apply to the court to stave off the bailiff even when the deadline for you to move has passed and you have at last got a buyer or your circumstances have changed for the better and the mortgage and arrears have suddenly become affordable.

It may suit you to earn an adjournment of the first hearing on technical grounds. Nothing of which to be ashamed. The judge could adjourn in some cases. (See below for more information).

There is much more in my book. Good luck. 

  • Stephen Gold is an ex-judge and author of ‘The Return of Breaking Law’ published by Bath Publishing. For more on service charges, go to breakinglaw.co.uk

When can a judge adjourn the hearing? 

It may suit you to earn an adjournment of the first hearing on technical grounds. 

The judge could adjourn, if asked by you, where: 

  • The lender has failed to follow a protocol before starting proceedings (unless a buy-to-let mortgage) by sending you various details with a view to an agreement and giving you no less then 15 working days warning that they are going to court
  • The court papers have not been sent to you at least three weeks before the hearing
  • The lender does not have with them a form called an N123 relating to protocol compliance or certain other documentation that the judge will be looking for
  • The lender has not sent you copies of any written evidence it is relying on at least two days before the hearing

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‘Britain’s shortest house’ measuring just 6ft 5ins tall which ‘dates back to 1758’ goes to auction

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Room for a little one! ‘Britain’s shortest house’ measuring just 6ft 5ins tall which ‘dates back to 1758’ goes to auction with £70,000 guide price

  • ‘Britain’s shortest house’ is just 6ft 5ins tall and is on the market for only £70K
  • The unique property is found in the village of Newton Poppleford near Sidmouth

‘Britain’s shortest house’ standing at just 6ft 5ins tall has gone on sale – for the relatively small price of £70,000.

The unique property, with ceilings that may skim the tops of some heads, is found in the village of Newton Poppleford near Sidmouth, Devon.

As its name implies, Ye Olde Toll House is a former toll house, which is believed to date back to 1758.

Its yellow exterior is topped off with a thatched roof, covering walls which stand no higher than an average front door.

Despite its miniature size the interior houses an entrance porch, living room, small kitchen, a shower room and one bedroom.

The unique property, with ceilings that may skim the tops of some heads, is found in the village of Newton Poppleford near Sidmouth, Devon

The unique property, with ceilings that may skim the tops of some heads, is found in the village of Newton Poppleford near Sidmouth, Devon

The unique 6ft 5ins property, that may skim the tops of some heads, is found in the village of Newton Poppleford near Sidmouth, Devon

The unique 6ft 5ins property, that may skim the tops of some heads, is found in the village of Newton Poppleford near Sidmouth, Devon

On the listing, Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers described the property as: 'A charming detached thatched Toll House for updating'

On the listing, Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers described the property as: ‘A charming detached thatched Toll House for updating’

There’s also an outdoor space with a log store area and attic space for extra storage.

On the listing, Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers described the property as: ‘A charming detached thatched Toll House for updating.

‘This unique single storey property is believed to date back to 1758 and is situated in the popular East Devon village of Newton Poppleford, which is only four miles from the popular seaside town of Sidmouth.

‘The property is likely to be of interest to a home owner or those looking for a lock-up and leave bolt hole. It could also be of interest to investment purchasers.’

Bidding for the property currently sits at £70k.

You can join the auction here.

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That’s potty! Grade II Listed cottage on sale is mocked for having a toilet in a children’ bedroom

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A Grade II listed cottage on sale for £450,000 has been mocked for having a toilet in the middle of one of the bedrooms.

The detached historic home in Colne, near Burnley, Lancashire, boasts a wealth of original features including mullion windows, inglenook stone fireplace and stone stills. 

But home hunters have been scratching their heads at the design choice of a loo and sink in what appears to be a child’s bedroom. 

The toilet has also been adorned with a large sticker featuring Marvel Comic character, Hulk, matching a small novelty Marvel laundry bin to its side.

Bemused Marie Gardiner said: ‘My friend sent me this from Rightmove and it’s freaking me out.

The toilet has also been adorned with a large sticker featuring Marvel Comic character, Hulk, matching a small novelty Marvel laundry bin to its side

The toilet has also been adorned with a large sticker featuring Marvel Comic character, Hulk, matching a small novelty Marvel laundry bin to its side

‘Somehow the layout is wrong in every room. Kid’s bedroom is also a toilet.’

Lydia Jane said: ‘That’s an OCD nightmare. Who builds a shower cubicle in front of a bedroom window?’

Marie added: ‘I thought it was maybe a stand up tanning thing?!

To which Lydia replied: ‘Might be, but still.’

It is listed in the property description which reads: ‘One of the bedrooms is separate to the others which is accessed via the spiral staircase and has a WC and wash basin.’

The quaint home features a large modern, living room diner and kitchen with a range oven and has a homely feel.

Three of the bedrooms are located in the main building with the fourth in an annex.

Other interesting features include what appears to be a stand up tanning booth in one of the other bedrooms, and wooden animals in the garden.

Other interesting features include what appears to be a stand up tanning booth in one of the other bedrooms

Other interesting features include what appears to be a stand up tanning booth in one of the other bedrooms

The key features include it being in a ‘sought after location,’ having a ‘fully fitted modern kitchen,’ ‘three bedrooms’ and ‘large private gardens.’

It is on the market with Petty Real Estate Agents and being advertised on Rightmove.

The property listing reads: ‘Beautiful three bedroom semi detached Grade II Listed cottage situated in a highly sought after semi rural location near to the amenities offered by Colne town centre.

‘This historic building which formed part of the old Carry Bridge Hall has a wealth of original features throughout such as, mullion windows, inglenook stone fireplace and stone stills.

‘The property comprises an entrance hallway with storage cupboard, spacious lounge diner with original stone flagged floor, inglenook stone fireplace with multifuel stove, spiral staircase and patio doors leading to the garden.

‘Fully fitted kitchen which houses a range of modern matching wall, base and drawer units, contrasting granite work surfaces, range oven, dishwasher and stairs leading to the first floor.

‘To the first floor is a landing there are three double bedrooms.

The 'beautiful three bedroom semi detached Grade II Listed cottage' has three of the bedrooms located in the main building with the fourth in an annex

The ‘beautiful three bedroom semi detached Grade II Listed cottage’ has three of the bedrooms located in the main building with the fourth in an annex

Th property listing boasts of a 'spacious lounge diner with original stone flagged floor, inglenook stone fireplace' and a spiral staircase

Th property listing boasts of a ‘spacious lounge diner with original stone flagged floor, inglenook stone fireplace’ and a spiral staircase

The quaint home features a large modern, living room diner with a prial staircase which can be used to access some of the bedrooms

 The quaint home features a large modern, living room diner with a prial staircase which can be used to access some of the bedrooms

The three piece family bathroom has a 'contemporary suite which includes a bath with shower over, low level WC and wash basin and is fully tiled throughout'

The three piece family bathroom has a ‘contemporary suite which includes a bath with shower over, low level WC and wash basin and is fully tiled throughout’

Petty Real Estate Agents, with whom the property is up on the market,  described how the property's kitchen 'has a homely feel'

Petty Real Estate Agents, with whom the property is up on the market,  described how the property’s kitchen ‘has a homely feel’

Original features in this historic home near Burnley, Lancashire include mullion windows

Original features in this historic home near Burnley, Lancashire include mullion windows

The four-bedroom home in the 'sought after location' has patio doors leading to the garden

The four-bedroom home in the ‘sought after location’ has patio doors leading to the garden

The 'fully fitted kitchen' features a 'modern matching wall, base and drawer units, contrasting granite work surfaces, range oven, dishwasher and stairs leading to the first floor'

The ‘fully fitted kitchen’ features a ‘modern matching wall, base and drawer units, contrasting granite work surfaces, range oven, dishwasher and stairs leading to the first floor’

There is a large private garden area to the rear which is 'mainly laid to the lawn'

There is a large private garden area to the rear which is ‘mainly laid to the lawn’ 

‘One of the bedrooms is separate two the others which is accessed via the spiral staircase and has a WC and wash basin.

‘Three piece family bathroom has a contemporary suite which includes a bath with shower over, low level WC and wash basin and is fully tiled throughout.

‘Detached annex with lounge & fully fitted kitchen, three piece shower room and double bedroom.

‘Externally there is a driveway leading to a courtyard where there is parking for several vehicles and a detached garage which has power and lighting.

‘The owners have created a woodland activity area which is perfect for your young children. There is a large private garden area to the rear which is mainly laid to the lawn.’

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‘Time capsule’ country house which has been left untouched for decades on sale for £1.65million

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A ‘time capsule’ country house left untouched for decades has gone on the market for £1.65m with 25 acres of overgrown grounds included. 

Burnells Estate on Exmoor National Park is nearly a century old but has not been lived in for at least 20 years as the current owner, who lives abroad, bought it to use as a retirement home and never got round to it. 

Estate agents Webbers have cleared the terrace around the outdoor swimming pool to show buyers the potential it has.

The house also has hunting rights over a neighbouring 81 acres of woodland and stunning countryside views of surrounding Exmoor.

Burnells estate was first built in 1927 for Lord Christopher Thomson, a British Army officer and later Labour minister and peer. 

The overgrown Burnells Estate on Exmoor National Park is on sale for a cool £1.65m

The overgrown Burnells Estate on Exmoor National Park is on sale for a cool £1.65m

The house was first built in the 1927s for Lord Christopher Thomson, a British Army officer and later Labour minister and peer

The house was first built in the 1927s for Lord Christopher Thomson, a British Army officer and later Labour minister and peer

The house in its former glory is quite the sight
It hasn't been lived in for over 20 years

The house has been left to decay for 20 years and is now overgrown and in need of renovation

He served in the Second Boer War and the First World War before going into politics.

Thomson was Secretary of State for Air under Ramsey MacDonald, who made him Baron Thomson in 1924. 

He died in the R101 airship crash on its maiden flight from Britain to France in 1930.

The accident was partly down to Lord Thomson putting pressure on to make the maiden flight before safety checks were complete and adequate flight testing had been done.

It led to the deaths of 48 people and the cancellation of the British airship programme by Thomson’s successor.

The house has an incredible private setting in the countryside, down a country lane between the villages of Dunster and Wootton Courtenay in Somerset.

The house has over 4,000 sq ft of living space with a large entrance hall, kitchen, breakfast room, dining room and a large L-shaped sitting room on the ground floor and eight bedrooms and three bathrooms on the first floor.

It has plenty of original features including exposed ceiling beams, ornate plasterwork and original fireplaces. 

The kitchen has an oil-fired Aga and adjoining butler’s pantry with original full-height crockery and storage cupboards.

There is also a large garage with a studio above.

The kitchen is spacious, airy and comes equipped with an AGA for clean country living

The kitchen is spacious, airy and comes equipped with an AGA for clean country living 

The inside of the house could use some work but has enough period features to fall in love with

The inside of the house could use some work but has enough period features to fall in love with 

The entertainment room has a large authentic log fire - perfect for winter nights

The entertainment room has a large authentic log fire – perfect for winter nights 

Outside the property has a number of slate terraces that would have originally made up the formal gardens and there is a sunken swimming pool from the house’s heyday. 

The grounds include mixed woodland, heathland and paddocks.

Mark Curran, from Webbers, said: ‘The house has not been occupied for at least 20 years and is a time capsule from the era of art deco.

‘The woodland and foliage has grown up around the property and offers people the possibility of a virtual blank canvas for their own preference and ideas.

‘The interior of the house could be remodelled to suit more modern tastes or enlarged.’

The property, which is in a national park, has nearly 25 acres of grounds

The property, which is in a national park, has nearly 25 acres of grounds

The house has hunting rights over a neighbouring 81 acres of woodland and stunning countryside views of Exmoor National Park

The house has hunting rights over a neighbouring 81 acres of woodland and stunning countryside views of Exmoor National Park

The owner Robert Berg said: ‘I was over in the UK for business and staying in a hotel that I really disliked, so I asked my accountant to help me find a home for when I was here.

‘I purchased the property back in 1979 and lived there permanently until 1983. I’ve used it as my holiday home ever since, until personal circumstances changed for me in recent years.

‘Unfortunately, I have not been back as often as I would have liked, so I think the time is right for me to move on and let new owners breathe life back into it. It is in need of renovation but I know it will make a truly unique home.

‘This is not a normal house; it must have been a very expensive project when it was built and it was constructed in the most perfect manner set over five slate terraces.

‘There is a swimming pool on the second terrace that is a wonderful luxury. Surrounded by woodland and beautiful trees, it offers a most welcome escape from the stresses of day-to-day life.

‘Views from the house are far reaching over scenic countryside that changes with the passing seasons.

‘Access to the property is via a private road which is about 500m long and not many people know that it’s here unless they are coming to visit.

‘I have loved my time living here, it’s been a really wonderful house, and I wish the new owners all the very best.’

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