“We have repaid € 90,000 on a loan of € 30,000 but we are still fighting to keep our house”
I WAS at the funerals of three people who committed suicide – they all faced the weight and shame of mortgage debt and the frightening and unimaginable risk of losing their family home.
I attended this funeral because over the last few years I have come to know people all over the country who were victims of mighty banks and vulture funds, who preyed on people who were perhaps a little strapped for cash and a little desperate at some point in their lives.
And I say cash strapped and desperate only because I was one of those people. In 1996 my wife and I were desperate to find a way to ensure that our children could stay in college. We, like all parents, wanted to make sure they could have the best opportunities in life.
We had been living in our own house for over 18 years and owed only around € 3,500 on our mortgage. We filed a number of loan applications, but I was struggling to get what we needed. At the same time, I felt that I couldn’t let my children down.
“I thought all my prayers had been answered”
Then a friend of mine told me about a business he had heard of. I had never heard of them, to be honest, but decided to travel across the country to meet them. They were extremely welcoming and didn’t seem to have a problem arranging a new $ 30,000 mortgage on my house. I left that office that day thinking that all my prayers had been answered.
We started the loan repayments, which were set at just over € 600 per month. It was a tough road that I knew, but felt we could handle it.
In 2013 – over 15 years later, we were still making refunds. He couldn’t bear to think to be honest. On the bright side, however, the kids had finished their classes, got married and settled down, and started to have families of their own.
But then we got the land of our lives when the lender started possession proceedings against us. They claimed we still owed tens of thousands of dollars on our loan because they said we agreed to pay our monthly amounts at an interest rate that was actually calculated at over 29%.
I thought back to that day at the Dublin office. At no time was it made clear to me that the interest would be so high. I was told the interest was 2% – a reasonable amount. But, in reality, unbeknownst to my wife and myself, it was actually 2% per month – something we had absolutely no knowledge of.
“€ 90,000 repaid on a loan of € 30,000”
I spent days and nights awake. We couldn’t tell anyone about this horrible situation. We couldn’t worry about the family. We couldn’t admit that we had been so naive and gullible. We couldn’t lose our home, our home, the place we moved into after our wedding, the place we raised our family and now the place that was simply known as “grannies”.
I have lost count of the number of times I have been in court at this point. In July 2017, the total amount due on the initial loan of € 30,000 was still over € 250,000. By that time we had already repaid over € 90,000 – a huge benefit for a lender by any means.
It was then that we began to better understand the vital European laws that could have been applied to our situation. Working with a group of concerned lawyers, we learned that there was a law called the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive that could be applied to assess the fairness of our mortgage terms in the first place.
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We have also learned that Irish courts should assess the impact of a possession on people living in the home – i.e. children, people with disabilities or the elderly like us – under the Charter fundamental rights of the EU.
Irish courts do not fully apply them
These EU demands are not new. The problem is that the Irish courts do not yet fully apply them.
For us, they are a lifeline. We’re not out of the woods yet, but at least with these two existing laws, we have some hope that the unfair terms we’ve been duped into will be explored and exposed.
We are not lawyers. We are just ordinary, simple people. But, we hope, for all of the people we have encountered over the past few years in similar desperate and often desperate situations, that more lawyers will begin to look to Europe to give their clients equality against the law. power of banks and vulture funds.
EU laws which are set out in a new guide for people in mortgage distress. It is available for free at abuslending.org.