Eviction for mortgage arrears
Your mortgage lender must take you to court before they can take your home. This is called ‘taking possession action’. If you haven’t had a court hearing, your lender can’t make you leave your home. If your lender is taking you to court, check what you need to do when your lender starts possession action.
If the court decides you must leave your home, you don’t need to leave straight away. There are things you can do that might delay or stop the eviction process.
If you can’t stop the eviction, you’ll need to make plans for during and after the eviction - for example, you'll need to move your belongings and find somewhere else to live.
Your mortgage lender can’t evict you without a warrant
Your mortgage lender must have a ‘warrant of possession’ before they can legally evict you.
Your lender will need to apply to court for a warrant. When they apply, the court will send you a copy of the court paperwork - this will tell you when you'll be evicted. If you don’t leave your property by this date, the court will send bailiffs to evict you.
If you have an outright possession order, your lender can apply for a warrant if you haven’t left by the date on the order. You don't have to leave by the date on an outright possession order.
If you have a suspended possession order, your lender can apply for a warrant if you don’t keep to the terms of the order.
If your lender applies for a warrant, the application cost will be added to your court costs.
Even if your lender has a warrant, you can still take action which might mean you can stay in your home.
Get breathing space if you need more time to decide what to do
If you need more time to decide how to deal with your mortgage arrears, the government-backed breathing space scheme could help. You can get breathing space at any point in the eviction process.
If you’re eligible, you could get 60 days of breathing space where your mortgage lender can’t:
take action to make you pay the arrears
add interest and charges to the arrears
You’ll still have to pay your regular mortgage payment as normal. If you get into further arrears after you start your breathing space, your mortgage lender can still contact you about those. You can usually only have breathing space once every 12 months.
Check if you can change the court's decision
If you think the court’s decision was wrong, you might be able to:
appeal against a possession order
have a possession order 'set aside' - this means it would be cancelled and you'd have another hearing
If you can afford to pay your arrears
You can ask the court to suspend your possession order or warrant of possession. This means you’d be able to stay in your home as long as you pay your mortgage payments and your arrears.
You’ll need to fill in form N244. You can get a form from the court or download the N244 form on GOV.UK.
If you or someone you live with is in vulnerable circumstances
You might be able to delay your eviction if you’re in a situation that makes it hard for you to deal with bailiffs - for example, if you’re disabled or very sick. You should tell your mortgage lender about your situation before the bailiffs plan to visit.
If you're at higher risk of getting ill from coronavirus, you should tell your mortgage lender - they might pause your case.
If your mortgage lender still tries to evict you, talk to an adviser.
If your lender agrees to pause your eviction, you should tell the court and the bailiffs - their contact details will be on the notice of eviction. They’ll arrange another time to evict you - they must give you at least 7 days’ notice.
If you decide to sell your property
You might want to sell your property to pay off your mortgage arrears. It’s usually better to sell the property yourself instead of your mortgage lender selling it. Your property will probably sell for more money if you sell it yourself before you're evicted.
If your lender has a warrant of possession, you can ask the court to suspend the warrant if you want time to sell the property yourself. If the court agrees to suspend the warrant, you can stay in your property for as long as you make the arranged payments or until it’s sold.
If you want to ask the court to suspend a warrant of possession, you’ll need to fill in form N244. You can get one from the court or download the N244 form on GOV.UK.
Preparing for the eviction
The bailiffs must give you a ‘notice of eviction’ - this gives you the date and time when your eviction will happen. They must give you the notice at least 14 days before they evict you.
If the eviction is delayed, the bailiffs must give you at least another 7 days’ notice before they come back. If they don’t give you the correct notice, you can complain about your bailiffs.
What happens to your furniture and belongings
Your lender has a right to ‘vacant possession’ of the property - this means you have to remove all your furniture and belongings.
If you have somewhere to store your furniture and belongings, it’s usually best to empty the property before the bailiffs come. If the property isn't empty, the bailiffs will probably watch while you remove your things - they shouldn't remove any of your things themselves.
If you don’t have anywhere to store your furniture and belongings, you should contact your lender to ask if you can leave them inside the property to collect later. After you’ve been evicted, you usually won’t be able to get back into the property.
If you refuse to remove your things, your lender can remove them. Your lender can also get a court order to force you to remove your possessions.
If the bailiffs change the locks when you're not home
If you still have belongings or furniture inside the property, you’ll need to contact your lender. You’ll need to arrange to be let into the property to collect your things.
What will happen during the eviction
The bailiffs shouldn’t use violence, threats or offensive language.
If you refuse to leave the property or let the bailiffs in, they’re allowed to use a reasonable amount of force to enter the property, and to remove you and anyone else who is there. For example, they shouldn’t break down your door or damage your belongings, but they can use a locksmith to get in.
Your lender might be at the eviction so the bailiffs can give them the keys to the property. Sometimes the lender will send someone else instead, like an estate agent.
The bailiffs will change the locks to stop you going back in. If you aren’t at home when the bailiffs arrive, they’re allowed to get a locksmith and change the locks.
The bailiffs might ask the police to be present for the eviction. The police aren’t allowed to help the bailiffs with the eviction - they’re only there in case a crime happens.
What happens to your property after you've been evicted
Your mortgage lender will usually sell the property. You’ll still be responsible for the mortgage payments until the property is sold - it doesn’t matter if you’re not living there.
You’ll also be responsible for the cost of repairs, maintenance and insurance. After you’ve been evicted, you should check if your insurance policy is still valid when you don’t live in the property. If your lender insures the property themselves, you’ll have to pay for it.
Your lender has a ‘duty of care’ towards you when selling your property. This means they must try to get the best price they reasonably can for your property - but they’ll also try and sell it quickly. For example, they might sell the property at auction. Your property might sell for less because you were evicted.
When your lender has sold your property, they’ll take the money from the sale to pay:
what you owe them for the mortgage
any insurance or maintenance of the property they’ve paid for
any legal and estate agents' fees
If you used the property as security for a loan, your lender will also use the money to repay any other lenders.
If there’s any money left over, they’ll give this to you.
If you still owe money after the property is sold
If the money from the sale of the property isn’t enough to repay what you owe, you’ll have to pay the difference. This is called a ‘shortfall’. Your lender will send you a bill for the shortfall.
If you can’t make an arrangement to pay it, your lender might go to court to force you to pay.
Your lender will usually have a time limit to go to court to make you pay the shortfall. This can be complicated and it's best to get advice.
If you still owe money after you’ve been evicted, talk to an adviser.
If you want to complain about your mortgage lender
If you think you’ve been treated unfairly by your mortgage lender, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. For example, you can complain if your lender:
sold your property for less than it was worth
took a long time to sell your property and your arrears went up because of this
Finding somewhere to live after eviction
If you’ve been evicted and you have nowhere else to live, you might be able to get help from your local council. They might have a responsibility to rehouse you or help you to find somewhere to live because you’re homeless.
Getting another mortgage after you’ve been evicted
You might have problems getting another mortgage.
There is a record of any payments you’ve missed on your file. This will affect your credit rating and might make it more difficult to get a loan.
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Page last reviewed on 26 June 2023