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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

World Homeless Day: Repossession isn’t the end of the road

Saturday 10th October is World Homeless Day.  Homelessness affects many people in Northern Ireland, including people who are no longer able to live in homes they own due to money problems.

For years, Housing Rights has been helping families who have fallen behind on their mortgages and who face the prospect of losing their homes due to debt.  Wherever possible, we help these people by representing them at court and negotiating with their lenders to try to find suitable arrangements which allow them to continue living in their family home.  However, it’s not always possible to save the property.  When this happens, we try our best to ensure that there is a safety net for the families affected.

Ill health leading to mortgage arrears

Janet and Thomas Marson bought their home nine years ago.  Thomas worked full time as a driver while Janet worked part time and cared for the couple’s two children.  Four years ago Thomas became seriously ill with a degenerating illness.  The effects of the illness made it impossible for Thomas to keep working, despite his best efforts.  While Janet was able to increase her hours of work, her salary combined with Thomas’s benefit payments, was not enough to meet all the household’s commitments.

Possession order granted

Janet tried her best to negotiate with their lender, but eventually ended up at court where the Master issued a Suspended Possession Order.  Unfortunately, the family were unable to regularly meet the payment terms imposed by this order and the lenders took the case back to court where an outright possession order was granted.  When Janet and Thomas came to Housing Rights for help, we discovered that the case was already with the Enforcement of Judgments Office. 

Considering all the options

Our adviser spent a considerable amount of time with the couple, trying to figure out a way for them to stay in the home and clear their arrears.  By this stage, Thomas’s illness had progressed significantly and Janet had given up work to be his full time carer.  Janet told our adviser that the family’s priorities had changed and that the struggle to save the home was no longer worth the worry and depression that went along with it.  They were ready to let the property go, but were genuinely worried about the prospect of becoming homeless.

Rehousing help: preventing homelessness through soft landings

We helped the Marsons approach the Housing Executive and our adviser wrote a letter of support which clearly set out how the family passed each of the homelessness tests.  Armed with this letter of support, Janet went to her local Housing Executive office.  The family has now been assessed and had been awarded Full Duty Applicant status.  They have been awarded a high number of selection scheme points and are currently waiting for an offer of social housing.   Janet called us last week to let us know how the family is getting on.  She wanted to thank our adviser for all the work that had gone into the case, but also for easing the family out of home ownership and into the rental sector.  Janet told us that her mental health has improved since they handed the keys back. She’s better able to look after Thomas and the children and she’s enjoying the time she gets to spend with her family again.

Our Mortgage Debt Advice Service strives to help people keep their homes wherever possible.  However, the nature of the housing and employment markets in Northern Ireland means that keeping a mortgaged property isn’t always possible.  A vital element of our service is helping those for whom moving on may be a better and more realistic housing solution.  We aim to ensure that the people that we help have the easiest possible transition into their new home and avoid any prospect of street homelessness.

Tagged In

Repossession, Homelessness, Affordability

This article was written on 9 October 2015. 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.