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Losing the home you own

If you might lose your home, get help as soon as possible. Speak to our advisers for any options that might help you stay in your home.

This information is for homeowners in Northern Ireland.

If the court decides to take away, or ‘repossess’, your home it will issue a possession order. At any point between the court issuing this order and eviction, you can still work with your lender and try to reach an agreement to repay your debt and stay in your home.

Our advisers can help you through this process. It can feel stressful and hard, but it’s better to get help earlier in the process. The further along you are, the harder it is to work things out with your lender. Losing your home to repossession can also make it hard to get a new home.

If you do not leave your home when you get the possession order, your lender can ask the Enforcement of Judgements Office (EJO) to force you to leave. You’ll need to pay the legal fees for this.

Four stages of the enforcement process

Stage one: you get the ‘Notice of Intention to Enforce’

You have 10 days to object after you get this notice. You can only object on a point of law. For example, the paperwork had the wrong address and is not a valid notice.

Stage two: lender applies for a ‘Notice of Intention to make an Order for Possession of Land’ 

You have eight days to object after the order is granted. You can only object on a point of law. To object, you must write to the EJO. An EJO Master hears this objection.

Stage three: lender moves to enforcement

In the enforcement stage, the EJO will:

  • serve an ‘Order for Delivery of Possession of Land’ – you can still object at this point
  • come to check that you know you’re in the enforcement stage 
  • give you an ‘on or before date’ – this is the date they’ll come to remove you and your belongings 

Stage four: day of eviction

If you’re still in your home on the eviction date, the EJO can physically remove you and your things from the property. You’ll need to cover the costs for removal, storage and EJO fees. Your lender will pay and add the amount to your debt.

The EJO will store your belongings for 28 days. If you do not pay to get them within 28 days, they will be auctioned to cover the EJO’s fees.

Remember, the Housing Executive must help you if you passed the homelessness assessment or if you might lose your home.

Selling your home

After your home is repossessed, the lender usually sells it to pay off your debts. They’ll want to try and get the best price for your home. Getting the best price will reduce how much you owe to the lender. Up until you are evicted, you can also try to sell the home yourself. 

You must pay any fees related to selling your home.

Giving back the keys

When you give back your keys, the repossession is done. You will not be able to negotiate with your lender anymore.

Paying back money you owe

If your home is repossessed and sold, but the money from the sale is not enough pay back everything you owe, you must still pay what you owe to your lender. If you have a mortgage indemnity insurer, they may pay some or all of what you owe to the lender. This does not cancel the debt. You just owe the money to the insurer instead.

Your lender or insurer will:

  • send you financial information when the property is sold – this includes any money you still owe for things like legal fees, bills for repairs or insurance
  • usually contact you and ask how you will pay what you owe – get advice before responding to any letters asking how you’d like to pay
  • use any leftover money to pay back any other creditors you have – if you get any leftover money it can count as capital and may impact your benefits

You can usually negotiate how to repay what you owe. You may be able to:

  • ask your lender to write off all or part of your debt
  • make a plan to pay back in installments over a period of time
  • settle the debt with a lump sum that’s less than what you owe
  • declare bankruptcy – Housing Rights cannot offer advice about bankruptcy, you must contact an insured agency

You can get support if you have trouble managing your debt.

Finding a new place to stay

Once you need to find a new home, you have options for finding a place to stay. You can:

  • contact the Housing Executive – they must look into your situation and tell you your options which can include emergency housing or renting from a social landlord
  • find a private rental – the number and quality of private rentals can vary and many landlords will check your credit rating, they may not want to rent to you if your home was repossessed
  • buy another home – it may be hard for you to afford to buy another home if your home was repossessed as you may have to pay a higher deposit or interest rate. If you pay off your other mortgage, you may be able to buy a home through co-ownership.

Understand your credit rating

It can be hard to rent or buy a new home if your home was repossessed or you have debt problems. Lenders and landlords often check your credit history or the ‘possessions register’ which has information about repossessions from the past six years.

You can check your credit score for free online. Make sure your information is correct. 

Getting sued for money you owe

Your lender or insurer may sue you for money you still owe. You may be able to negotiate how you pay. This depends on whether the court issued a ‘money judgement’. A money judgement is when the Master orders you to pay a certain amount of money along with the possession order. 

If the court made a money judgement, there is no time limit for when the lender or insurer can start legal action.

If the court did not make a money judgement, your lender or insurer must start legal action within 12 years. They can pursue you can within that time for housing-related debt.

Usually, lenders or insurers will start legal action within six years.

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