Teacher beats lender’s plan to make her and sons homeless

A teacher has fought off attempts by a sub-prime lender to render herself and her two sons homeless.

At the Personal Insolvency Court in Ennis, Judge Patrick Meaghan approved a deal that allows Limerick secondary school teacher Niamh Spencer stay in her family home with her sons, aged eight and five, and enjoy a €113,000 writedown on her €309,000 mortgage with Start Mortgages Ltd (SML).

After the writedown and an additional €56,000 to be ‘warehoused’, Ms Spencer now has a €140,000 mortgage — 45% of what was owed.

The ‘warehousing’ of the €56,000 allows it to be set aside at 0% interest rate and be paid off in a lump sum at the end of the 28-year mortgage term.

Ms Spencer, 41, achieved the victory as a result of measures introduced by the Government last year that let debtors seek an independent court review of lenders vetoing personal insolvency deals.

SML objected to the deal put forward by Ms Spencer’s personal insolvency practitioner, Maurice Lenihan of Moore Stephens Debt Solutions, at a creditor meeting.

However, Ms Spencer, of Caherconlish, Limerick, appealed the decision of SML to oppose the personal insolvency arrangement to the court.

SML has now withdrawn its opposition to the appeal, allowing Judge Meaghan to approve the writedown.

In court, Judge Meaghan said that he was “delighted that the case has come to a successful conclusion and I want to say ‘thank you’ to all parties concerned”.

A smiling Ms Spencer was congratulated by Mr Lenihan and her solicitor, Bill Holohan, on the result and left court without comment.

No reason was given in court as to why SML has withdrawn its strident opposition to the deal.

In an affidavit lodged into court, Ms Spencer laid out the case for herself and her boys to remain in the home and securing the debt deal.

The separated mother of two stated: “I am now powerless at the hands of a sub-prime lender seeking to, undoubtedly, evict me from my house and leave me and my children homeless.”

Ms Spencer warned that if the deal was not approved “there is a real risk that we will be rendered homeless and left seeking to be placed on the housing register with the hope of obtaining local authority accommodation or to seek rent in the local area”.

She said SML put a proposal for her under which she would surrender her home in full and final settlement of the debt and make herself homeless. As part of this proposal, SML offered Ms Spencer an incentive of €5,000 to relocate.

She said it was not unreasonable for her to reject the offer and described it as an “unfair tactic” by SML “to seek possession of my home in a manner cheaper and faster than issuing repossession proceedings”.

Ms Spencer said she was attempting to work with her creditors and trying to pay them as much as possible while maintaining a reasonable standard of living for herself and her children.

In the affidavit, Ms Spencer said: “This is not a situation of ‘won’t pay’. This is a situation of ‘can’t pay’. I have struggled on my own for the past number of years having to run a household on a single income without the luxury of surplus money, constantly in fear of letters from the bank and the next knock at the door.”


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