Late payments and loan defaults leave marks on a credit history that can complicate any effort to refinance or secure a loan in the future. Default can also lead to a home being repossessed and sold by the lender, so it’s very important to act quickly to avoid it.
While late bill payments and a loan in arrears can impact your credit report and lead to difficulty securing finance in the future, the worst case scenario is repossession of a property.
In the past, lenders may have taken months to start the proceedings that lead to repossession. However, according to the Financial Rights Legal Centre (FRLC), this is not the case anymore.
Once a mortgagee has defaulted on a loan by failing to make repayments as agreed, they can be sent a Default Notice, which gives them 30 days to catch up on the repayments that are in arrears, as well as continuing to make any repayments that are due in the 30-day period.
“This notice will include an acceleration clause,” the FRLC explains. “This means that if the arrears are still outstanding after the 30 days has lapsed, the entire loan becomes payable.”
Thirty days after the Default Notice, the lender can take vacant possession of a property that is not occupied, or seek a court order for possession of a property that is occupied.
The key to avoiding this substantial trouble is, of course, to keep making repayments. From time to time, circumstances such as unexpected job loss or illness will impact a mortgagee’s ability to make payments and, when this happens, the key is to act quickly, as there are more options before a Default Notice is served than there are after.
“Don’t be scared,” advises the FRLC. “Lenders make repayment arrangements all the time.”
Many lenders will negotiate short-term variations to repayment schedules as long as there is a plan to get back on track, and there are circumstances in which lenders are obligated to agree to such arrangements. It is important, however, not to agree to payment terms that cannot be met.
“Make sure you think through your plan as to when you will resume making payments. Do not promise something you are not certain you can achieve or is not realistic,” warns the FRLC. “If you don’t know when things will improve, ask for an initial arrangement to be reviewed at the end of the agreed repayment arrangement.”
One of the advantages of recognising a looming problem before you get behind in repayments is that a finance broker may be able to assist you to pinpoint the source of the problem, as well as identify savings that may be available by refinancing to a lower-rate or lower-fee loan. Once there are clear signs of financial distress, this will become much more difficult.