Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 14:54 UK

Q&A: Home repossessions

Housing estate

The number of properties repossessed by mortgage lenders in the UK rose by 48% in the first half of 2008.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said repossessions rose to 18,900, from 12,800 in the same period in 2007.

Meanwhile the number of repossession orders - an earlier stage in the process - rose by 24% in the second three months of the year compared with the second quarter of 2007, the Ministry of Justice said.

There are a number of steps you can take if your mortgage is in arrears and you face the prospect of losing your home.

What should I do if I can't keep up with mortgage payments?

The first thing is to contact your mortgage lender. The lender will want you to clear your debts, if you don't do this, they could take court action and repossess your home.

However, if your lender knows you are doing your best to stop your arrears mounting, they may let you cut down your monthly mortgage costs for a limited period of time.

Citizens Advice suggests that you put a detailed proposal to the lender rather than just asking them to offer you a solution.

What other options are there?

If you are unable to pay off your mortgage arrears, you could consider a mortgage rescue scheme.

The schemes are run by private companies, local authorities and housing associations, which offer to buy your property and rent it back to you.

It pays to be wary of these schemes, especially ones offered by private companies, because you could end up selling your home below market value and paying very high rent.

What action will my lender take if I can't repay my mortgage?

Your lender must follow a standard procedure for recovering the arrears although there is no set time frame.

After writing to you to ask you to pay back the arrears, the lender may issue a claim for possession through the county court.

A district judge will consider your lender's claim against you and any offers you have made to deal with the arrears at a court hearing.

Even if the judge grants the lender an outright possession order, the lender can't legally evict you from your property unless it has applied for a warrant of possession.

Eviction will be carried out by bailiffs, who must inform you of the date and time of the eviction in advance.

Where can I go to get advice?

It is never too late to seek advice, and you may be able to stop your home being repossessed at any stage.

More than 170 courts now have on-the-day emergency legal help desks, just for people who turn up to a repossession hearing without having taken any previous legal advice.

Waiting until the last moment is not the best strategy though.

If you have a problem repaying your mortgage, and fear you may face repossession hearings, you could call:

Shelter - 0808 800 4444

Community Legal Advice - 0845 345 4 345

Citizens Advice Bureau - check website for local branch.


SEE ALSO
How not to lose your home
02 Jun 08 |  Panorama

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