Losing your job can be a shocking and stressful experience, especially if you haven’t been given much warning.
For some, there will be an offer of a redundancy package. This can ease the panic if there is money to tide you over for the next couple of months. But for others, being made redundant will impact straightaway, as the funds to pay even the most important creditors, like the mortgage, are simply not there. But there are solutions out there to help you hold on to your home.
It’s important for you to feel in control, so taking action as soon as possible can actually be helpful and reassuring. Your first point of contact should be with an expert who will be able to give you professional advice.
There are several organisations that can help you address specific problems including:
• The Citizens Advice Bureau (www.citizensadvice.org.uk)
• The National Debtline who runs a freephone line on 0808 808 4000
• The Consumer Credit Counselling Service on 0800 138 1111.
It’s absolutely crucial to communicate with your creditor so he can be as flexible as possible. According to debt counsellor Chris Tapp, from the charity Credit Action (www.creditaction.org.uk) you have more time to play with than you might imagine: ‘The entire process takes between three and six months, so there is still room for you to be negotiating with the creditor but also to be seeking help from elsewhere.’
And even though a court summons sounds scary, it does give you the opportunity to put forward your case and make suggestions that will work for you.
Help from the government
In England, the government has now launched a mortgage rescue scheme to help vulnerable homeowners stay in their home. It can specifically help if you have dependent children, or if anyone in your household is pregnant, disabled or elderly. To qualify for the scheme you need to have a household income of less than £60,000 a year.
There are two options, depending on your circumstances. You can either sell a share of your home to a housing association, enabling your monthly mortgage payments to be significantly reduced, or sell your entire home to a housing association and remain in the property as tenants paying a subsidised rent.
For more information visit www.communities.gov.uk
There is also financial help in the form of Income Support for Mortgage Interest (ISMI). After 13 weeks homeowners who lose their jobs receive financial help with the interest payments on their mortgage.
The Homeowner Mortgage Support Scheme allows households who suffer an income shock to defer part of their payments for up to two years. It has been set up for people who are having trouble making payments because of a sudden loss of income, but you must have an outstanding mortgage of less than £400,000 and savings of less than £16,000.
Selling your home without having to move
A mortgage rescue scheme, also known as buy back, sale and rent back, or sale and lease back, will help you pay off your mortgage arrears. Your property will be bought from you and then you can rent it back. A mortgage rescue scheme may be the right option for you, but you need to check the terms and conditions very carefully and understand what you are signing up to. A scheme could be run by a private company, a mortgage company, a social landlord, (such as a local authority or housing association) or an individual.
A spokesman from private company Buy My Property Fast, said: ‘Most of our clients stay in their homes after a quick sale. We are in the property business and want good tenants. What better tenant can we ask for than someone who considers the property to be their home?’
It’s important to check who pays for the cost of selling your property and what type of tenancy is being offered. If it’s a time-limited tenancy make sure you can renew it. Find out how the rents are set and how often it will go up and by how much. When your tenancy is renewed, you may be charged a much higher rent.
Citizens Advice Bureau top tips
If you start to fall behind on your mortgage then follow this advice:
• Let your mortgage lender know if you’re having problems – don’t just miss your payments.
• Make your mortgage payments top priority – you could lose your home if you don’t pay.
• Get some independent advice as soon as you realise there’s a problem.
• Don’t ignore court papers and hearings – do attend court, but get advice first.
• If you’re suddenly out of work or unable to work because of illness or injury, check for any payment protection insurance you may have and get advice on benefits you may be entitled to.
Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk for a fact sheet on how to deal with mortgage arrears.
Money sense…Debt collection agencies have no power to repossess your home. Only the court can do this. If you’ve been on the receiving end of this scare tactic, you can report an agency to the Office of Fair Trading.