Now I have actually started looking, I have come across many reported stories of the unscrupulous dealings of banking institutions. However it is clear, the Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB take the biscuit every time. I can say this with conviction because I have personally fallen foul of their penchant for persecuting the poor. We are now completely penniless as a direct consequence of their irresponsible lending spree together with a "come what may" attitude to their administrative obligations.
When, in October 2008, I discovered my unenviable financial position it did not occur to me to look for legislation and court rulings made in favour of women in similar circumstances. At the time my life was in tatters and so was I. More recently, I have had both the time and the inclination to explore these avenues and in so doing have unearthed barrister Richard Colbey's article in the Telegraph in 2001.
Mr Colbey talks of a House of Lords ruling which has given the wives of businessmen a right to their share of the equity in their homes. This has come about because it is recognises spouses are in danger of being coerced, by their partners and their mortgage lenders, into agreeing to family homes being taken as security to raise funds for their husband's businesses. Richard Colbey says the courts are to follow the House of Lords' ruling putting the onus on the lender to make sure a husband and wife take separate independent legal advice when taking out, or increasing, a mortgage on a family's main residence if funds are to be raised for non residential purposes. This precaution ensures neither borrower unknowingly finds themselves in a position where they could lose their home in an attempt to support a spouse's business. Richard Colbey says, "In future, lenders who hope to be able to rely on mortgage deeds signed by a wife will have to prove she was seen by a solicitor who was not acting for the bank or her husband before they can repossess the whole property."
There are two areas of concern which apply to me;
Firstly, at the time of signing our mortgage document, I was not advised by the Bank of Scotland to seek any legal advice independently and separately from my husband and the mortgage company. This does not surprise me in the slightest as this nonchalant view the Bank of Scotland have of co-signing spouses has been evident throughout my dealings with them. When, unbeknown to me, the arrears on our mortgage started to build up, the Bank of Scotland made no attempt to contact me personally. This neglect directly resulted in the loss of our family home because the Bank of Scotland denied me an opportunity, at the start of any problems, to rectify the situation.
In addition, the Bank of Scotland unashamedly excluded me from all debt counselling conversations they had with my husband through our difficulties. They even levied a charge of £100 for a final debt counselling consultation which my husband was supposed to have had when neither of us was even in the country. The Bank of Scotland says they based their decision to repossess our lovingly restored sixteenth century home of ten years on the findings of this consultation. On enquiring why I was not included in any discussions at any stage, the Bank of Scotland said, "it was not their responsibility to make sure husband and wife communicate" and in the case of a married couple, they believe speaking to one person is enough. They stated in most cases where there are arrears, it is unusual for either borrower to want to speak to their lender in the first place and because of this statistic they had no reason to believe I would be any different. I was, and still am, outraged at this laissez faire attitude to joint and severally liable spouses on Bank of Scotland mortgages.
If this House of Lord's ruling was in place and being reported in 2001 why was I rail-roaded by the Bank of Scotland and the courts in November 2008 into thinking I had no grounds on which to halt the repossession process? I was in touch with the Bank of Scotland several times a week from 2 October 2008 trying to explain my predicament in an attempt to explore all the options. However, the Bank of Scotland insisted, other than making full monthly interest payments immediately, as well as offering a substantial monthly sum via a payment arrangement towards paying off the arrears, I had no alternative other than agree to sell at a forced sale value unless I wished be repossessed. As my husband had not found employment at that stage, I agreed to sign their power of sale terms. The Bank of Scotland insisted the court case go ahead and, in November 2008, the judge ruled in support of the Bank of Scotland's application for a repossession order. If I did not remain in agreement to the forced sale of my home, the order was to come into effect on 5 January 2009 and give the Bank of Scotland the power to proceed with a repossession. The Bank of Scotland valued our home for mortgage purposes in May 2006 at £925,000 and it was sold, under duress, for £245,000 less in April 2009 for a mere £665,000 creating a £217,000 shortfall.
I can see now my sorry tale is just another example of the compassionless lending policies employed by the Bank of Scotland. It can be added to the ever increasing list of the Bank of Scotland's unashamed and callous attitude towards their customers, their investors and their shareholders. Along with the Reading scandal which is reported in depth in BBC reporter and journalist Ian Fraser's article, it is yet another example of a directive which has been rolled out by HBOS executives to push high risk lending out to small businesses regardless of the cost to the families of those concerned.
When the Bank of Scotland's commercial risk backfired, unlike the many other lenders I have had dealings with, they have happily laid the blame at somebody else's door expecting the individual concerned, the tax payer, the investor and no doubt anyone else they can think of to pay the price.
As well as a catalogue of offences in Ian Fraser's report HBOS the Worst Bank in the World, the Bank of Scotland's attitude to selling money in this irresponsible manner has legitimised a greed for the massive introductory fees that go hand in hand with the marketing of high risk lending. The fees which were generated from placing our mortgage with the Bank of Scotland in May 2006 were £3,931.25 to the introducer plus an additional £699.00 which the Bank of Scotland awarded themselves. These figures do not include any commissions earned by selling supporting life assurance and repayment vehicles both of which can add thousands to the introducer's financial remuneration.
Sadly, I continue to be advised although I probably do have a case against the Bank of Scotland, it will cost £40,000 to bring it to court. No doubt the knowledge of the dire financial circumstances many of their victims now face, allows the Bank of Scotland to continue with their persecution of the poor, safe in the knowledge as individuals we will not have the means with which to make them answerable for their dirty dealings whether they be in Reading, or in the sleepy back water I once used to call home.