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Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 16:22 UK

How not to lose your home

As UK house prices fall and homeowners struggle to repay loans, Judge Stephen Gold offers his advice on how to save your home from repossession.

Judge Stephen Gold said homeowners must not bury their heads in the sand

Judges have to do justice between the parties. They have got to take into account the positions of both sides and there are various factors which will come into play.

The judge is primarily going to see if it is possible to allow the borrower to stay put.

Generally speaking, the judge will be able to do that, if he or she is satisfied that it is likely the borrower will be able to clear the arrears within a reasonable period of time. But that has got to be before the end of the mortgage.

FIVE TOP TIPS ON HOW NOT TO LOSE YOUR HOME
  • The big message which I think needs to be screamed from the rooftops of the county courts is this... if you get into difficulty with your mortgage, do not bury your head in the sand. Engage with the lenders. Pay what you can. It may not impress the lenders but it could impress the court in due course.

  • Do not be deterred by crazy demands which lenders may occasionally make... "pay off a substantial arrears within two months" for example. Take advice from people like National Debt Line, Shelter and Citizens Advice Bureau who offer free and impartial advice.

  • If you have not reached an agreement before a court hearing is due with the lenders, turn up at court, because if you are not there it may well be that the judge cannot do anything other than order you out.

  • You may well find that at a number of county courts there is an advice desk. So if you have not taken advice before, get free and impartial advice from an expert.

  • If the judge is satisfied that you are likely to be able to clear your arrears within a reasonable period of time - and that has got to be before the end of the mortgage - the judge might make a suspended order for possession. In around 47% of cases, judges do make these orders.

    For example, if I order you out within 28 days but that order is suspended, it is paralysed, as long as you keep to the current instalment and pay the arrears at the rate I am directing, of so much per month.

Panorama: Property - High Anxiety will be broadcast on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday, 2 June, 2008.


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