Couple reveal impact of mortgage on health

A man who is celebrating holding on to his home after securing a 53% mortgage writedown required morphine doses to deal with severe migraines while his wife contemplated suicide over the debt.

Earlier this year, the man in his late 40s was also admitted to hospital as a result of chest pains his wife believes were brought on by the prospect of the couple losing their home.

Last week at the Personal Insolvency court in Ennis, Co Clare, Judge Michael Meaghan approved a deal allowing the married couple to remain in their home and write down their mortgage debt by 53%.

Owned by US private equity giant, Lone Star, Shoreline Residential Ltd bought the loan from IBRC in 2014 and employed a company called Pepper to administer its IBRC portfolio.

The writedown deal was brokered by personal insolvency practitioner Maurice Lenihan.

The couple’s mortgage debt was written down by €98,250 from €186,000 to €87,750. The 100-year-old house today is valued at €55,000 to €75,000.

The two plunged into mortgage debt five years ago after the man, who worked as a taxi-driver, suffered a stroke and his wife resigned from her post to become the man’s full-time carer.

In an interview yesterday, the man said “the last five years have been torture”.

Shoreline had a two-week period in which to appeal the arrangement ahead of the court date. The woman said:

“It was the worst two weeks. We waited and waited. We didn’t sleep, we couldn’t eat and every night when we were going to bed, I was saying “I wish it was morning”.”

Now that Judge Meaghan has approved the deal, the man said: “We can’t really believe what has happened. We are just so happy — it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

During the five years of dealing with various lenders, the couple received letters to move out of their home three Christmas eves in a row. After one meeting with their lender last year, the woman contemplated suicide.

She said: “The only reason I didn’t take my life was because of my elderly parents and brothers and sisters. I love them all. If I had no family, I was gone that evening. The mortgage would be paid off and my husband couldn’t suffer anymore. He had suffered too much.”

The man recalled that meeting where his wife broke down. He said: “She was trembling and crying and I was trying to hold it together after we were told we could be losing our home and we would have to go on the council housing list.”

The woman said: “Nobody knew what we were suffering, we kept up a brave face. My parents still don’t know what has been going on — only one brother and his wife and one sister — they were the only ones we told.”

Her husband said: “We didn’t really go outside the door.

“We lived in a prison you could say but we had to keep our spirits up for our family’s sake. With special occasions like birthdays, we would go along but the mortgage was at the back of our mind all of the time.”

The couple never ceased making some payment on their mortgage.

A spokesperson for Pepper said yesterday: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, Pepper has a strong track record in helping customers to resolve and find a solution to their financial difficulties.”

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