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How to sort out your mortgage problems

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only

This information is general advice. Remember that your household has particular financial circumstances. You may need to discuss your circumstances with an experienced adviser before you decide how to solve your mortgage problems.

What has caused the problem

To find the correct solution for a mortgage problem you have to understand why you are having difficulty paying your mortgage. You can only work out the best solution for your circumstances if you understand why the problem exists. If you are having difficulty paying a secured loan you will also have to find a solution with some priority as your home could be threatened. For example, if you are only a few months behind with your payments and you have not had a drop in income you might be able to negotiate with the lender to pay back the arrears over a few months.

Work out what has happened to cause the problem using the following checklist as a guide to assess if it is a short term problem or if you are in a financial situation that is not going to change quickly:

  • has your income dropped and if so can you get back to what you were earning when you were managing your mortgage
  • is your income the same but the mortgage has increased because of the end of a fixed-term arrangement
  • have your personal circumstances changed and your income has to cover more outgoings
  • did you have to pay other debts
  • did you have to deal with an emergency financial problem, for example, you had an expensive car repair but you need your car for your work
  • has your income stopped because you were made redundant and you are finding it difficult to find a new job because unemployment is high in your area.

See What help is there with mortgage costs if you are not working.

Now you have to work out if your current financial situation is going to improve easily or if the mortgage arrears are going to continue to be a problem because your income is not going to increase significantly and you are not managing to pay them off.

If the lender has already threatened legal action because you have not been able to pay off any arrears you have to get help quickly.

See Lender is taking legal action for repossession and eviction.

Work out your current finances

You have to work out what your financial position is now and how steady and predictable it is. To deal with any debt and particularly a debt like mortgage arrears, when you could lose your home, you have to know if you can carry on paying your mortgage and what you are able to do to pay off the arrears. If you negotiate with your lender and make an arrangement you have to be able to stick to it because, if you don’t, it may take legal action.

What help is there with mortgage payments

You may get help with housing costs such as mortgage interest payments if your income and savings are low enough and you are entitled to benefits. Even if you can’t get it maybe someone in your household can.

You won’t be able to get any help for the first 13 weeks of your claim unless you are 60 or over. For a full check of the benefits you might get you can use an online benefits tool on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.  

If you can get help, ask your lender if they will accept just these payments until your situation improves.

You might find it helpful to work out your current financial position with a money adviser and discuss ways you can increase your income. Once you know your income and expenditure you can see what is left to tackle paying off the mortgage arrears.

Go to an independent money adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice. Remember to take all the paperwork about your mortgage and any other debts that you want help with. If you want to work through this yourself go to the Budget Sheet [ 41 kb]or use our interactive budgeting tool

What can you do about the mortgage problem

Once you know what your monthly income and expenditure are you can work out a plan and then you will have to contact the mortgage lender or ask for help from a money adviser to contact the lender.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to advise you - where to get advice.

You may have to write a letter to start solve your problem. Please see our guidance on how to write a letter [ 46 kb].

A bureau may not be able to help you unless you have all the important documents with you. Please see our guidance on what to bring to a bureau.

At the same time as negotiating with your lender about your arrears you can try to negotiate a way of cutting down your mortgage costs by changing your arrangements with the lender.

See:

Negotiate with the lender for extra time

If you know that you cannot pay off arrears at the moment then you have to negotiate with the lender for some extra time. If your financial difficulties are only short-term, you could think about asking your mortgage lender if it will agree to cut down your monthly mortgage costs for a limited period of time. This could allow you to carry on making a monthly payment for your mortgage and although arrears would build up for a while, if you are going to be in a position to pay them off later, this agreement could protect you from action being taken against you.

See Cutting down your monthly mortgage costs and Dealing with your mortgage lender.

Find out about schemes to help you when you are in danger of losing your home

When you have arrears that you can’t pay off or you can’t reach an agreement with your lender you might be able to stay in your home with help from a special scheme.

There are a number of ways that you can get help to stay in your own home either by becoming a tenant or a part-owner or by deferring payment of your mortgage for a few years. See Schemes to provide support to homeowners in danger of losing their homes.

Sell the property and hand back the keys

If you have worked out that you do not have enough money to carry on paying the mortgage or the arrears you might decide that the best course of action is to sell the property. You should not do this without getting financial advice. Selling your property might seem like the only option when your financial situation is difficult but there might be some other ways of dealing with the problem until your circumstances improve. You should also be aware that if you have any difficulty selling your property you are still liable for all the costs until it is sold.

See Selling the property or handing back the keys and Schemes to provide support to homeowners in danger of losing their homes.

It's worth remembering that it is almost never too late to try and come to an agreement with your lender. Even when the lender has started legal action you should try to make an arrangement if you can. You might need help to do this as it can be very stressful if you are facing legal action for repossession. It is important that negotiating with the lender is handled well because if you can’t make an arrangement you could lose your home. For more information about how to do this see Dealing with your mortgage lender.

A Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or other advice agency can provide help with negotiating with the lender and support at court in certain cases. Remember to take all the paperwork that has been sent to you by the lender to ensure that the CAB has the correct information straight away.

If you have checked your income and expenditure and have some money you can offer towards the arrears you should get help to do this.

See to Lender is taking legal action for repossession and eviction.

Useful information

There is useful information and fact sheets on mortgage problems and debt on the National Debtline website at www.nationaldebtline.co.uk

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