Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger once said, "Any fact that needs to be disclosed should be put out now or as quickly as possible, because otherwise the bleeding will never end" and while I appreciate he was referring to damage limitation as US secretary of state, his observations ring equally true for the effects of mental illness and stress. However, if my own case is anything to go by, the Bank of Scotland, now part of Lloyds Banking Group, have no interest in damage limitation for anyone other than themselves, nor do they consider the toll of the never ending bleed of mental ill health, more commonly known as stress, inflicts on the individuals in their hands.
Our troubles began in 2006 when, having just remortgaged with the Bank of Scotland to fund a building project, both my husband’s mother and brother were simultaneously diagnosed with familial MND. Although they were told MND running in families was almost unheard of, it became blatantly clear (as my husband’s aunt had died from MND twenty years earlier) our family had drawn a very short, and frightening, straw. Between regular trips to care for our dying relatives my husband made the decision to sell our beautiful sixteenth century home on the completion of the building project as he it wished to become our new home. He believed relocating would provide us with not only a place to live but an income from the annexed accommodation as he feared he too was suffering from the early signs of MND and would soon be paralyzed or on his death bed just like his forty four year old brother.
When my husbands mother and brother died in March 2007, sadly only three weeks apart, I agreed to put our home on the market knowing only that my husband no longer wished to work in residential property development market. Completely unaware of his health issues and without the knowledge my husband had been late with several mortgage payments in an effort to supplement the cash flow of the other build, I was pleased when a keen cash purchaser was found in November 2007 on the grounds it would simplify life for my husband after such a grueling and emotionally draining year.
However, in just a few short weeks prospects for my husband, me and our three young children completely changed.
· In January 2008 our purchaser’s purchaser withdrew the offer on their house on the grounds he did not wish to develop their property in a falling market.
· In March 2008 our purchasers, conveyance solicitors, found a new purchaser but after experiencing a sharp downturn in their turnover, decided to redirect funds originally allocated to the house purchase of our house, to their business.
· In April 2008 our purchasers applied for a mortgage in order to raise funds to buy our house.
· In May 2008 our purchaser’s mortgage valuation revealed our house was not worth the agreed £950,000 price they had offered four months earlier but instead was only worth £800,000. This was £225,000 less than our Bank of Scotland mortgage valuation of May 2006.
· In June 2008, still waiting to see if our purchasers were prepared to proceed at a lower price but with no other prospective buyers in sight, we decided to look for a tenant to cover the monthly mortgage interest payments.
· In July 2008 our mortgage payments rose from £2,400 a month to over £5,000 per month when our two year fixed rate ended.
· In August 2008 our purchasers formally withdrew their offer.
· In September 2008 a tenant was secured for our property at £2,200 per month but the Bank of Scotland rejected our proposal to tenant our home and make part payments.
· In October 2008 the funding for our building project dried up when our business bank went into administration and as a consequence my husband became unemployed.
· In October 2008 I discovered my husband had not been opening the post or paying the mortgage for more than sixth months leaving us £27,000 in arrears. I took over the running of our finances and the responsibility for the post.
· In October 2008 my husband confessed, had he not discovered his life assurance had lapsed, he had every intention of committing suicide.
· In October 2008 my husband and I visited our doctor and were told he was suffering from symptoms of extreme stress and unresolved grief but thankfully not MND.
· In October 2008 I told the Bank of Scotland I had not been privy to any conversations or received any communication from them concerning our arrears.
· In November 2008 I again offered the Bank of Scotland monthly payments of £2,200 as interest rates had fallen and my husband had found part-time employment in a local supermarket. My proposal was rejected once again, this time on the grounds it was too late.
· In November 2008 Bank of Scotland applied for and were granted a possession order for my home. I sat, alone, in front of the judge and wept.
· In April 2009 the Bank of Scotland sold our home for £665,000 leaving us with a £217,000 shortfall.
· In April 2009 the Bank of Scotland instructed their solicitors Merrils Ede to pursue us for the repayment of a £217,000 shortfall from my husband’s salary of £12,000 per year.
· In April 2009 and in complete contrast, our business bank Heritable agreed to complete and sell our unfinished building project and write off the £209,000 shortfall on compassionate grounds.
- In June 2009 I was told I would most probably have a case against the Bank of Scotland for their lack of duty of care and their over valuation of my property at outset. To date I have been unable to secure anyone to take my case forward without funding.
Throughout the following year, with the charitable help of the CAB’s debt consultants, a total of £800,000 of my husband’s business and personal debt was written off on grounds of compassion and hardship. The Bank of Scotland and their parent company Lloyds Banking Group are alone in their decision to perpetuate our purgatory with their unrelenting harassment for repayment. In desperation, I have tried to enlist the help of the Financial Ombudsman Service only to be told the Bank of Scotland are contractually at liberty to pursue us for a shortfall regardless of the manner in which it was created . They FOS have also advised me the Bank of Scotland plan to argue that my case is both out of jurisdiction on timescale and without legal substance. The Bank of Scotland are adamant the regulatory and government initiatives to encourage banking forbearance in cases such as ours are merely unenforceable guidelines, codes of conduct and protocols which are not legally binding. The Financial Ombudsman agrees with them.
Had the Bank of Scotland accepted our offer of rental income against our mortgage payments in September 2008 we would still have a home to return to today. The rental would have provided sufficient income to cover the interest on our mortgage as well as a substantial contribution towards the arrears. However, instead, the Bank of Scotland chose to use the possession order they acquired through the courts to push through the forced sale of our home in April 2009. In doing so they created a huge deficit by way of a £217,000 shortfall which, from outset, they were fully aware was and is beyond us to resolve.
After three years of continued persecution and, according to my advisors, a further nine years to go before the Bank of Scotland are themselves out of jurisdiction, it seems they are nothing short of hell bent on driving both my husband and I to our stress related deaths before they will reconsider their position. To date I have lost my all my hair, my eyebrows and my eyelashes along with forty pounds in weight while my husband regularly alternates between uncontrollable rage and suicidal despondency. Our children often refer with sadness to happier times before we lost our home.
In the words of Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger, and in the absence of any money, I can only conclude the Bank of Scotland are determined to ensure our “bleeding will never end".