Home­own­ers caught up in mort­gage scan­dal tell of trauma and stress

Four clients had to carry bur­den of shame due to fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, says solic­i­tor Com­mit­tee told of hol­low apolo­gies and con­tin­ued trick­ery by lenders

The Irish Times - - Home News - CONOR POPE Con­sumer Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent

The im­pact of the tracker mort­gage scan­dal on the lives of the thou­sands of peo­ple who were caught up in it was laid bare­be­fore the Oireach­tas fi­nance com­mit­tee yes­ter­day morn­ing.

Four home­own­ers who were wrongly taken off tracker mort­gages by Per­ma­nent TSB and Ul­ster Bank and sub­se­quently forced to pay tens of thou­sands of euro more in re­pay­ment than nec­es­sary told of the huge im­pact the on­go­ing strug­gle had on their health and well­be­ing.

And they spoke of a lost decade dur­ing which they were robbed of their fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence and bul­lied by bankers.

The group were brought to­gether by solic­i­tor Padraic Kis­sane who has been fight­ing on be­half of tracker hold­ers for al­most 10 years.

He told the com­mit­tee that the ex­pe­ri­ences of the four peo­ple was “re­flec­tive of cus­tomers across all lenders and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of thou­sands of lives”.

He said each story was “deeply per­sonal and dif­fi­cult to share” and added that the vic­tims had had is­sues with their health, with their re­la­tion­ships and their well­be­ing and had been forced by banks to carry a bur­den of “shame” as a re­sult of get­ting into fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties de­spite the fact that they were all “good hard-work­ing, de­cent, brave peo­ple”.

Con­de­scend­ing

He ac­cused the 15 banks who have been caught up in the scan­dal to one de­gree or an­other of hav­ing “a col­lec­tive lack of em­pa­thy” and con­sis­tently dis­play­ing a “con­de­scend­ing” at­ti­tude to the cus­tomers they had wronged.

Mr Kis­sane said banks had “as­sumed cus­tomers would roll over” and he re­ferred to “hol­low apolo­gies and con­tin­ued trick­ery” and asked what – if any – “moral compass do they pos­sess”?

Thomas Ryan and his wife Claire were cus­tomers of Per­ma­nent TSB and in early 2009 he con­tacted the bank with a view to break­ing out of “fixed-rate” in­ter­est terms on mort­gages of more than ¤1 mil­lion on their fam­ily home in Wex­ford and a prop­erty in Dublin.

Cheaper

He be­lieved he had se­cured agree­ment on cheaper in­ter­est rates for a time after which he could re­vert to an ear­lier tracker rate. The bank’s later in­sis­tence he could not re­vert to the tracker rate meant in­ter­est charges of ¤4,290 a month, rather than ¤2,090, from De­cem­ber 2009.

The is­sue was re­ferred to the om­buds­man but their com­plaint was re­jected and it was only when the case went be­fore the High Court that a “highly rel­e­vant” tran­script of the recorded phone con­ver­sa­tion be­tween PTSB and Thomas Ryan on the rene­go­ti­a­tion of in­ter­est rates was un­cov­ered.

But the strug­gle con­tin­ued and has yet to be fully re­solved. “I suf­fered a stroke in 2013 and my wife suf­fered a ner­vous break­down into 2015,” Mr Ryan told the com­mit­tee. His wife lost her speech for a pe­riod and still strug­gles. “The con­di­tions are med­i­cally at­trib­ut­able to enor­mous stress,” he said. “We are beg­ging you to please sort this out for once and for all.”

He said the “life-chang­ing trau­mas are etched on our lives for­ever” and he high­lighted the im­pact of the dis­tress and the ill­ness on his teenage chil­dren, de­scrib­ing it as heart­break­ing.

Mr Ryan said the banks had “de­stroyed lives” and added that “all over the coun­try there are peo­ple who are no longer with us, they have com­mit­ted sui­cide over this but the banks don’t care”.

Hazel Mel­borne who was with PTSB said be­ing forced off a tracker by her bank and her at­tempts to have it re­stored over a pe­riod of six years had been “dev­as­tat­ing” and “heart­break­ing”. She said that a huge part of their lives had been taken away and the con­trol her fam­ily had once had over their fi­nan­cial des­tiny had been “robbed”.

Tur­moil

She said she and her hus­band had spent years “blam­ing our­selves” and high­lighted the “huge stress” it placed on them as a cou­ple. “We did noth­ing to de­serve this; we still find our­selves in tur­moil,” she said. “Where is the jus­tice?”

Ni­amh Byrne said she was wrongly forced off a tracker by Ul­ster Bank and she pointed out that this prob­lem has now been go­ing on for “nine years, two months and 28 days”. She said she “had lost her 30s to this” and had been com­pletely priced out of the cur­rent hous­ing mar­ket as a re­sult.

Helen Gro­gan switched to PTSB from the EBS as it was of­fer­ing a 0.8 per cent tracker which was slightly less than the 1 per cent tracker she had been on with EBS. She told the com­mit­tee that she moved be­cause she had a large mort­gage and the slightly re­duced rate would have led to some sav­ings.

Dis­counted

She was then told the 0.8 per cent rate would be dis­counted to 0.6 per cent for the first year. But after the first 12 months she was told by PTSB that her tracker mort­gage would climb to 2.25 per cent. She was given the op­tion to switch to a vari­able rate which ini­tially was cheaper than the tracker that had been, so she went for that.

Then it started to climb. She told the com­mit­tee she had paid more than ¤40,000 in un­nec­es­sary ad­di­tional pay­ments as a re­sult and she es­ti­mated that over the course of the life of the mort­gage the over­pay­ments could amount to as much as ¤80,000.

She pointed out that she was com­ing up to re­tire­ment and had hoped to have cleared her mort­gage by that stage, but it would be hang­ing over her un­til she was close to 70. She spoke of the “rage and frus­tra­tion and anger that I was ripped off and duped by the bank”.

dI suf­fered a stroke in 2013 and my wife suf­fered a ner­vous break­down into 2015 Thomas Ryan We did noth­ing to de­serve this; we still find our­selves in tur­moil Hazel Mel­borne Nine years, two months and 28 days. [I]lost my 30s to this Ni­amh Byrne

Helen Gro­gan was near­ing re­tire­ment and hoped to have her mort­gate cleared

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