Stage 4: Court Hearing

Repossession Court Hearing

A possession hearing takes place in private chambers and often lasts no more than 10-20 minutes. The District Judge will help the borrower by asking them simple relevant questions, which the borrowers should use to explain their situation and clearly state how they intend to go about fixing the situation.

If the borrower can demonstrate their ability to meet the current monthly mortgage payment and pay a contribution towards the arrears, such that the arrears will be paid over the remaining mortgage term, the court will in almost every instance make a Suspended Possession Order. This arrangement basically means that the borrower will be allowed to remain in the property so long as they maintain monthly payments and arrears contributions agreed by all parties. But if the repayments towards the mortgage arrears are not maintained then the lender has the right to seek possession by eviction (Possession Warrant) without a further hearing.

A common mistake borrowers make is to promise to repay the arrears back as quickly as possible in the hope of securing favour with the court. By doing so, they leave themselves committed to an unmanageable Repayment Order which they invariably default upon shortly afterwards, making the situation even worse.

Failing to attend the Court Hearing

Court hearings provide an opportunity for a judge to hear the case of a borrower in person. If a borrower fails to attend the hearing the mortgage lender’s claim for possession will be deemed unopposed and an order for possession will be made 28 days from the date of the possession hearing.

If a borrower is unable to attend for whatever reason, they should inform the court in writing of their situation as soon as possible and also detail what their proposed plan of action is.

Alternatives to a Possession Order

It is important to remember that the Courts view an outright Possession Order as an extreme measure that should only be instigated when there is no chance that the borrower can rescue the situation. Instead there are a number of possible outcomes that the judge could declare, depending on the borrower’s situation and the circumstances of the case:

  • Case dismissed – Repossession proceedings are stopped subject to the lender agreeing upon a payment schedule to settle the arrears with the borrower.
  • The case is adjourned – The matter is adjourned until a later date, when all necessary information is available, so that the court can come to a conclusion.
  • Possession is postponed - If the borrower can convince the court that they will be able to pay the mortgage arrears in full at a future date and continue making normal mortgage payments, the granting of the possession order may be postponed to a later date.
  • Possession is suspended – If the judge believes the borrower is likely to meet the agreed payments or put right any breach of their agreement with the lender within a reasonable time the possession order will be granted by the court, but the order is not enforced unless the borrower defaults on the agreed terms of payment owed. If the borrower fails to maintain the mortgage arrears payments then the lender has the right to obtain an eviction warrant (see Stage 5) without the need for a court hearing.

What can be done?

Borrowers should try their hardest to show the judge that they are able to meet the current monthly payment and pay an additional amount towards the arrears. Any payments that are agreed upon must be paid on time.

It is also vital for borrowers to attend the Court hearing with all documentation in hand. The more evidence a borrower has to show the judge that every effort has been made to meet obligations then the more chance they have in getting a better result in court.