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Leah Farrell

Couple battling to keep home discovered they're victims of tracker mortgage scandal 'by accident'

The family were forced to go to the St Vincent de Paul to put food on the table for their children after paying €1,080 a month in mortgage repayments.

A CLARE COUPLE with five children who were in court battling to keep their home say they discovered they’re victims of the tracker mortgage scandal by accident.

The married couple, who are paying €1,080 a month in mortgage repayments, owe €320,000 to Bank of Ireland, including €56,000 in arrears on their mortgage.

They made their first appearance at the County Registrar’s Court in Ennis yesterday over the bank seeking to re-possess their family home.

The woman told County Registrar, Patrick Wallace, that during the course of a phone call to the Bank of Ireland last Friday, she was told “we have been impacted by the tracker situation, that we are part of that”.

In reply, Wallace said “if you are part of that, it would be great. That is not a matter for me. That is a matter for another forum”.

Outside court, the woman said that she only found out “by accident” that they are impacted by the tracker scandal. She said:

I phoned the bank on Friday to get up to date details for court today and the person told me that we were impacted by the tracker situation.

Her husband said: “It was like winning the Lotto hearing that.”

Up until now, the monthly mortgage repayments have left the couple and their five children “with very little” after the €1,080 is paid over.

He said: “We are paying the bank more than we can afford to pay, at times we have no money. I don’t know why we are paying that amount – every time we are under pressure. It is a case of waiting for the pay cheque to come in and pay for food and the bank.”

The woman works while her husband is the ‘home maker’ in the family after his own business collapsed eight years ago that resulted in the couple falling behind in their mortgage payments.

‘It was a nightmare’

At one stage, the couple had to get help from the St Vincent de Paul as they didn’t have enough money to pay for food after paying their mortgage. He said:

In the business I had I used to supply St Vincent de Paul to give things out at Christmas so having to go to them was embarrassing. Don’t talk to me about it. It was a nightmare.

“In the money we have repaid to the bank, we have repaid the value of the home but I know that isn’t how it works.”

The man’s wife said last year as part of an insolvency proposal, the Bank of Ireland suggested that their two eldest children not go to third level after completing their Leaving Cert but get jobs instead to help pay down the mortgage.

The couple rejected this. The mother said: “It was ridiculous. It is unbelievable. It didn’t make sense. Our life is all about educating all our children and getting them a good education. The two did very well in their Leaving and are in university. They have a very good work ethic and work weekends to support themselves.”

The man said that the Bank of Ireland also suggested that his wife retire early and the lump sum pension payment would cover the arrears as part of an insolvency arrangement.

He said: “The bank wasn’t thinking straight. How would we paid for food or the mortgage if my wife was retired from work?”

The man, who at one stage went on medication to deal with the stress, said: “The pressure we have been under is phenomenal.”

He said that one letter received from the Bank of Ireland some time back wanted them out of the house within 10 days. The man said: “Jesus, we nearly had a heart attack. You get immune to those type of letters after a while but at the start…”

Wallace today adjourned the repossession proceedings for six months to allow both sides provide details concerning the case and the man said: “This gives us breathing space.”

The man said that they are “hopeful” over being impacted by the tracker scandal.

He said: “You can’t quantity the heartache and stress that has been caused over this.”

A spokeswoman for Bank of Ireland said, “Bank of Ireland cannot comment on any individual customer account.”

“Bank of Ireland is focussed on supporting customers with financial challenges, providing a comprehensive range of sustainable restructuring solutions. Legal action is a last resort. Our experience is that the vast majority of customers with debt repayment challenges can be supported. Nine out of 10 Bank of Ireland owner occupier customers are fully up to date on their mortgage.

“Of the remainder, 9 out of 10 owner occupier customers who have requested forbearance, and through a Standard Financial Statement have demonstrated they are in financial difficulty, have been offered a sustainable solution. And our restructuring solutions are sustainable, with 9 out of 10 of these meeting the terms of their forbearance arrangement.”

Read: BOI hiking up some tracker mortgage rates by 1% ‘should not have occurred’>