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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Northern Irish family face repossession and homelessness

People from all walks of life end up in the Chancery Court in Belfast, facing the possibility of losing their home.  Sharon and Stephen are one such couple, who got help from our Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme last month, after meeting specialist representative Maria McNally at court. 

Sharon and Stephen moved into their home just after their first child was born.  They’d raised all three of their children in the family home and were devastated by the thought of having to leave it.  Simon, their eldest child and Amy, his younger sister, will be doing their A-Levels and GCSEs next summer.  Sharon said the kids had found it hard to study properly since they’d found out about the mortgage problems.

Down the rabbit hole of unemployment and payday loans

Stephen had lost his job as a tradesman a few years previously.  As a way to make ends meet, he’d applied for a number of payday loans to help with the costs of running the house and having three teenage children.  In his head, he’d always imagined the payday loans as a short term option and tried tirelessly to find work, but a year passed before he found permanent work and the repayments on these loans had snowballed.  Stephen had felt under huge pressure to make the regular payments on these loans and had paid these on time, but had missed several mortgage payments in the attempt.

Sharon tried to negotiate repayment options with the lender to avoid going to court, but the lump sum payment requested by the lender was too much of a stretch for this family.  They offered to pay £200 a month on top of their monthly payment, but could only manage this for four months.  When they missed a payment, the lender took them to court.

How Housing Rights Service helped Sharon and Stephen

Maria found Sharon & Stephen sitting in the corridor outside court.  They were terrified at the thought of going into the court.  Maria reassured them, by explaining what would happen in the hearing and telling them that the court can suspend a possession order as long as they could put forward a reasonable repayment proposal that would see them clear the arrears during the term left on the mortgage.  Some quick calculations showed that Sharon & Stephen would only need to pay an extra £29 per month to satisfy this requirement.

Maria sat with the couple and worked out a household budget with them.  Looking at their finances, it seemed that they could reasonably afford to pay an extra £35 per month towards the arrears.  Maria went into the hearing with Sharon and Stephen and spoke to the Master on their behalf.  The court was satisfied by Maria’s proposal and granted a Suspended Possession Order on the agreed terms.

As soon as they left court, Stephen phoned his eldest son Simon to let him know that their family home was safe.  With Stephen back in permanent work, the family will be able to pay what they need to and can relax, knowing that they won’t be asked to pack all their memories up and leave their home.

If Sharon and Stephen hadn’t gone to court, the court would most likely have granted possession to the bank and ordered the family to leave the property.  Maria says that going to court can make all the difference in saving a family home, and the same is true for tenants facing eviction for rent arrears.

Getting help at court from Housing Rights Service

Going to court and facing the possibility of eviction or repossession creates unimaginable stress for many people.  Every day Housing Rights Service sends two specialist advisers, Maria and Eamonn, out to court hearings across Northern Ireland to offer free advice and representation to people who are attending court to try to save their homes.

Getting legal advice and representation can make all the difference when it comes to saving your family home. Our Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme, funded by the Department of Justice, allows us to help families and individuals who need help at their court hearing.   Maria and Eamonn are both qualified solicitors with many years’ experience dealing with repossession and eviction hearings.   

Maria and Eamonn can assist homeowners facing possession due to mortgage or secured loan arrears and tenants who face eviction because they’ve fallen behind on their rent.  

Tagged In

Repossession, Practical tips, Affordability

This article was written on 14 November 2014. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.