Credit card debt is one of the main forms of debt that a large majority of Brits have.
If you’re one of those people and you’re struggling with paying off the debt, you may be worried about your home being repossessed.
In the UK, close to 100 homes are repossessed every day in relation to unpaid debts. However, there are only some specific types of debts for which your home can be taken away from you.
Is credit card debt one of these types of debts? Let’s find out.
I’m Struggling to Pay Off My Credit Card Debt. Can My House be Taken Away from Me Because of This?
The short answer is no. However, there are some nuances to it which you definitely need to be aware of.
The first thing to keep in mind is that there are mainly two types of debts: unsecured debts and secured debts.
A secured debt is one in which one (or more) of your assets are tied to it as ‘security’. This means that your creditor has the right to take those assets away from you in case you start falling behind on your payments.
Some examples of secured debts are:
- Secured loans
- Car loans
- Hire purchase agreements for any item that may have been bought using that agreement.
[A Hire Purchase agreement is one in which an item is purchased and the money is paid back to the vendor in instalments. If you fall behind on your payments, then the item can be taken back by the vendor.]
Thus, in all of these examples, the creditor has some form of ‘security’ to fall back on in case you are unable to pay back the money you owe.
Unsecured debts are ones in which no form of assets are included in the form of ‘security’ for your creditors. If you start falling behind on your payments, your creditors have no right to seize any of your assets. They can, however, take court action against you and try to get you to pay the money you owe that way.
This is usually a last resort for most creditors and only occurs if they’ve completely exhausted every other avenue of making you pay back the money you owe.
Some examples of unsecured debts are:
- Payday loans
- Unsecured personal loans
- Credit Cards
As you can see, credit cards are one of the prime examples of unsecured debt.
Thus, if you start falling behind on your payments towards the outstanding balance on your credit card account, then your credit card company does not have the right to take away any of your assets to pay off your debt, especially not your house.
So, My House is Completely Safe if I have Credit Card Debt?
In most cases, yes. However, there are definitely some things you need to keep in mind with credit cards and credit card companies. Debt on your credit card is, obviously, not secured against your home. This means that if you fall behind on your payments, then your creditor has no right to seize your home.
However, once you start falling behind, according to guidelines authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, your creditor has the right to contact you and request you to get back on track and start paying off the money you owe.
If you fail to start paying back your debt, your creditor then has the right to pursue court action against you. This can be when a creditor decides to get a Country Court Judgment (CCJ) against you.
A CCJ will then entail a detailed repayment plan for you which you will definitely need to stick to. If you fail to make payments towards your CCJ, then this can have extremely severe consequences.
Firstly, bailiffs can be sent to your residence if you fail to make payments towards your CCJ. Bailiffs are individuals that have the legal right to seize items on your property and sell them in order to pay for the debt you owe.
Secondly, the creditor can also pursue what is called a ‘charging order’ against you if you have a CCJ.
For all CCJs that have been issued after the 1st of October 2012, creditors have the right to get a charging order against you even if you’ve been up to date on your payments.
For CCJs issued before that date, creditors can only obtain a charging order against you if you have missed a payment towards your CCJ or if you’ve failed to pay the lump sum amount immediately if it was ordered by the court.
This is something that only applies to court action that has been pursued in England and Wales. It’s an action that basically turns unsecured debt into secured debt.
We’ve already mentioned that this action turns an unsecured debt into a secured debt but what does it secure this debt against? Well yes, it secures it against your home.
While this may seem troubling, it’s important to keep in mind that a charging order does not always mean that you will lose your home.
It means that if you sell your home or obtain a remortgage on it before you have cleared your debt to the creditor, then all of the profit you obtain will be paid directly towards your debt.
What is an Order for Sale?
If you have a charging order against you and you have been missing payments towards your debt, then your creditors can opt to pursue an Order for Sale.
An order for sale entails that you will have to sell your home and all of the proceeds from that sale will be given directly to your creditor in order to take care of your debt. Keep in mind that if your CCJ was after the 1st of October 2012, then the creditor cannot apply for an order of sale against you if you have been keeping up to date with your payments towards your CCJ.
Furthermore, an order of sale can only be pursued for debts that are greater than £1,000.
Orders of sale are typically extremely rare. Even if a creditor applies for one, there’s a chance that it won’t be passed. In the case of an order for sale, another hearing would be called and you would have another chance to explain yourself to a judge.
What can I Do to Avoid a CCJ for Credit Card Debt?
Your creditors cannot take your home or any of your property if they don’t have a CCJ against you. Of course, my advice is to never let it escalate to a point where a creditor starts pursuing court action against you. In most cases, this is easy to avoid because court action is a messy and time-consuming process which most creditors want to avoid. They will only pursue this if they see no other way of making you pay for your debts.
Thus, I advise that when you have outstanding balance on your credit card, you should do your best to pay it off as soon as possible.
If you can afford to make more than the minimum payment, then you should do so as this enables you to clear the debt on your credit card much more quickly.
Of course, it may seem overwhelming when you know you can’t afford to make even the minimum payments towards the outstanding debt on your credit card.
In that case, you can opt to seek advice from an independent registered charity such as StepChange. They have trained professionals who will sit with you, analyse your situation and provide you with options to deal with your creditors.
The important thing is to always be in touch with your creditors and to make them understand your situation. Assure them that you’re doing all you can to make payments towards the debt on your credit card.
It’s a good idea to keep them in the loop about what debt solutions you’re pursuing as well as what your financial situation is like. If your creditor understands your situation and knows that you’re exploring all avenues to take care of your debt, they will be much less likely to take out a CCJ against you.
Always keep in mind that even if you don’t have the money to take care of your debt, there are options available to you that you might not be aware of. This is why I feel it’s very important to not only do your own research but to also contact a professional.
They’ll definitely point you towards solutions which you may not have been able to find on your own.
Credit cards are something that land a ton of Brits in debt every year.
Taking care of your debts can be a very overwhelming experience and many people make it harder for themselves by worrying about situations that will most likely never happen.
Losing your home over an outstanding balance on your credit card is something that rarely ever happens.
You don’t need to worry about it necessarily but you should definitely be aware of what can happen if you let things escalate.