Preparing for a Mortgage Repossession Hearing
Mortgage repossession hearings are generally quite informal and it is not usually necessary for a borrower to have legal representation. However, there are some simple steps which can be taken to ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved.
Getting to the HearingIt may seem obvious but the first step to ensuring a satisfactory outcome from a mortgage repossession case is attending the hearing. Many borrowers simply do not turn up – either because they think the outcome is a foregone conclusion or because they are burying their head in the sand. Failure to attend the hearing will almost certainly result in an outright possession order.
Defendant borrowers should check the time and date of the hearing on the notice sent by the court, and ensure that they know where the hearing will be held. Mortgage repossession cases are almost invariably held in county courts – the notice of hearing will give the name and address of the court. A common mistake is for borrowers to assume they know where the “court” is but to go to their local magistrates’ court by mistake.
Many mortgage repossession cases are listed in blocks with several cases given the same time. This could mean that the case is heard later than the time given on the notice. However, this is not an excuse to arrive at court late. The best approach is to arrive at least 15 minutes before the time given but to be prepared to wait. Arriving early maximises the chance of reaching an agreement with the lender’s representative or getting free legal advice from a duty adviser if one is available at court.
Borrowers who are running late for the hearing should telephone the court to tell them that they are on their way. If this is done, the judge hearing the case may agree to delay it until the borrower arrives. The telephone number for the court office should be on the notice of hearing. Alternatively, a borrower could call the mortgage lender’s solicitor who may then be able to get a message to the lender’s representative at court. They can then notify the judge’s usher that the borrower is running late.
Even if an agreement has been reached with the lender the judge could refuse to grant the order requested in the absence of confirmation from the borrower that the terms of the agreement are correct or viable.
What to Take to CourtAs well as having something to read or do in the event that the case is delayed, borrowers should make sure that they have any paperwork they may need to rely on to convince the judge to grant the order they want. For example:
- a borrower who has just got a new job, meaning that they can now afford to make payments towards the mortgage, may want to take payslips or their job contract;
- if a property is being sold correspondence from estate agents or conveyancing solicitors may be useful;
- documents proving that the borrower has received an offer of a re-mortgage;
- where there is a dispute between the parties about payments to the mortgage, bank statements or paying-in slips proving that payments have been made could help to prove that the borrower’s figures are correct;
- an income and expenditure breakdown showing all in- and out-goings could help a judge decide whether payments are affordable.
Court EtiquetteMortgage repossession hearings are likely to be stressful and sometimes come after a history of troubled relations between the borrower and lender. However, a borrower who adopts a civil and open approach to the court, and the mortgage lender’s representative, is far more likely to come away with a positive result.
It should be remembered that, although mortgage repossession hearings are relatively informal, respect is still due to the judge and the legal process. Mortgage repossession cases are usually heard by District Judges who are addressed as Sir or Madam. Hats or head coverings should not be worn in court unless required for religious purposes. It would also be advisable to remove sunglasses unless these are necessary for medical reasons.
Borrowers should be given every opportunity to explain their side of the case and should, therefore, try not to speak when the judge or the lender’s representative is speaking. Mobile phones should be switched off before going into the hearing – or at the very least be on silent and without the vibrate option. If the worst happens and a borrower’s telephone goes off during a hearing they should apologise and try to turn it off. On no account should the call be answered. Some judges take a very, very dim view of phones going off in court.