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Permanent TSB tells customer in arrears of €200 to sell her house

The woman’s case was reviewed recently as she has been on an interest-only payment plan for around three years.

Updated 9.25pm

A CUSTOMER WITH Permanent TSB has been advised to sell her house despite the fact that she has been keeping up with an agreed payment plan has an arrears balance of less than €200.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Helen*said that she “went into panic mode” when she was first told by the bank that she should sell her house, which she has been paying the mortgage on for ten years.

The mother of three has been on an interest-only payment plan with PTSB for about three years, as her retail business suffered in the recession. She is now only taking in a third of what she used to before the economic downturn but said that her landlord has been reasonable and though she struggled with bills, she has never missed a payment.

Her case was reassessed when she submitted her Standard Financial Statement recently which included details of her accounts from 2012 and earlier this month Helen received a phonecall from the bank to inform her that she no “no longer fit the criteria” for the plan as her income showed no signs of improvement.

“I’ve been paying my bills, I live frugally, I don’t go on holidays or buy clothes or entertain in my house,” she said. “I was told they wanted me to pay an extra €300 a month and I told the guy there were things like life insurance I could reduce and maybe come up with another €150 a month but they weren’t interested in striking up a deal, they just said I don’t meet the criteria”.

Five days after the phonecall, Helen received this letter:

(Image: The Hub Ireland/Facebook. If you have trouble viewing this, click here)

The letter says that the bank understand “the stress that this recommendation may cause”.

However, in light of the level of repayments you can currently afford, we believe this is the best option for you. Selling your property will enable you to use the proceeds of your sale to clear your outstanding arrears and repay, or significantly reduce, your mortgage balance.

It then goes on to list a number of conditions if Helen were to sign up to this agreement including an obligation to submit all offers to purchase to the bank and a commitment to selling the house within six months.

Grief and stress

“I didn’t sleep for more than two weeks, I’ve had to start taking sleeping tablets because I’m up at 6am every day for work,” Helen said. “I was just burning up with the grief and stress.”

“I’ve never defaulted on my payments, I’ve always paid my bills at the agreed level so to be told now that I don’t fit the criteria – I just don’t understand”.

Helen has a 20 year mortgage and had paid off ten years before she got into financial trouble. The house was originally bought for €152,000 and is now currently worth about €150,000.

“I think I’m being targeted because they know what I could get for the house and now I’ve brought my mortgage balance down to €80,000,” she said. “They want to put me out of my family home, I’m just devastated.”

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‘Sound reasons’

In a statement issued to TheJournal.ie, a PTSB spokesperson said that while the bank cannot comment on individual cases, “there are sound reasons why a proposal like this might be made to a customer who apears to have a low arrears balance”.

A proposal such as this is only made after carefully reviewing the customer’s financial position and outlook, based on information the customer has provided. The apparently low arrears balance almost always reflects the fact that payments have been paused or reduced for a sustained period of time, by agreement, but that the mortgage is incapable of being serviced on a realistic basis in the future. Ultimately early action by the customer may be in their best financial interest in the longer term. Alternatively, if additional information not currently known to us is made available we will always review our recommendation.

Helen sought advice from organisations like Debt Options and The Hub Ireland after receiving the letter and has now filed a plenary summons in the High Court to have her case reviewed.

“They’re not taking my house off me – I raised three children on my own as a single mother, I’ve been ill for the past two years, I’ve been through a lot and I won’t let this happen,” Helen added.

*The customer’s name has been changed in the story to protect her identity.

First published 1.03pm

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