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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Realities of court representation

Denise Callaghan has worked as an adviser with Housing Rights Service for several years.  A key member of the Preventing Possession Initiative, Denise was Northern Ireland's first Duty Court Adviser for people at risk of repossession.  Here, Denise talks through her experiences advising worried homeowners.

First time at court

I was shaking so badly I didn’t recognise my own voice, my first experience of appearing before the Chancery Master.  Thankfully I had an experienced Housing Rights Service adviser with me, the case had been well prepared and all I had to do was outline my clients’ circumstances and make a proposal to the Court.  It was my first experience of legal proceedings and I was petrified, that gave me a real insight into the value of my role.  If I was feeling anxious what do the people facing the possible loss of their home feel like?  Knowing that I can help people through the repossession process is the reason I do this job.

When our clients are faced with repossession action they do no know what to expect.  The act of explaining what to expect from the process helps alleviate the stress and fear of the unknown.  If I could say one thing to people facing legal action due to mortgage or rent arrears it is not to be intimidated by the thought of going to court.  I have had many clients over the years and I can honestly say that going to court has not been the ordeal they were expecting, the days and weeks of worry and lack of sleep prior to the hearing is much more difficult to deal with.

Making a difference 

I feel passionately about my job because I know we can help people through a very difficult experience.  Times are certainly hard but if you seek advice in relation to arrears at least you will know you have investigated all the options open to you.  What options are open to the court? Have you negotiated with your lender?  Can you do anything to increase your income or benefit entitlement? Are you paying your credit card debt instead of your mortgage?  Can you make proposals to save your home?  If you can’t save your home how long will you be able to stay there?  Where will you go if you have to leave your home?  These are the practical questions we answer on a daily basis. 

My role is to help people at a very difficult time in their lives.  No two cases are the same.  There may have been a relationship breakdown, loss of employment, ill health, or a combination of factors that led to arrears accruing.  Repossession action is rarely the only stress our clients face.  If there is a hope of saving the home we will do all in our power to achieve the best outcome for our clients but, even if we can’t save the home, at least we can help people through the long repossession and enforcement processes and can help them identify their alternatives.

Resources to help


Tagged In

Affordability, Repossession

This article was written on 30 June 2013. 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.