New regulations which make repossession of homes from mortgage defaulters the last resort are being introduced by the Northern Ireland court service it was announced today.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said it would help ensure no-one in the province would lose their home unless there was no reasonable alternative.
His office said the Pre-Action Protocol on Possession Proceedings for the courts in mortgage repossession cases will come into effect from October 5.
A housing charity which works with those who get into mortgage difficulties said the effect of the protocol should be to cut down the number of costly and distressing court repossession cases.
The protocol sets out steps lenders are expected to take before bringing a claim to the courts. Lenders will now be expected to demonstrate they have tried to discuss and agree alternatives to repossession when borrowers get into trouble with their mortgage repayments.
It requires them to tell the court precisely what they have done to comply with the protocol. Lenders have been given the next two months to put in place any necessary procedures in order to comply.
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie welcomed the announcement.
Ursula Toner, advice services manager with Housing Rights Service, said: “We see the introduction of the protocols as a very positive step for Northern Ireland families facing the trauma of repossession.