Riches to Rags: The story of being wrecked by repossession

Our former Riches to Rags columnist was served with a repossession order in recent days, despite establishing a new business, dealing with arrears and paying the mortgage in full again.

Riches to Rags: The story of being wrecked by repossession

SCHOOL uniform ironed, tick; lunches ready, tick; affidavit on hall table, tick; Book bus for High Court trip, tick. Trips to court are almost a way of life for us now and tomorrow is our 14th appearance in under two years.

It’s hubby’s turn tomorrow, not that he would have gone every time but I got brave and decided to go the last two times and the judge just made mincemeat out of me.

We have no babysitters or family in Cork, where we live, and for both of us to go to Dublin it would mean we need someone to stay over Sunday night, mind the kids and guests (I run a guest house). It’s just too much to ask so we have to do it alone.

I know he won’t sleep tonight. I know he is anxious. I know he is scared of the outcome of the High Court but we will not discuss any of that today. We will carry on as usual and give each other support and reassuring glances. The kids know absolutely nothing about this and we never ever discuss money problems in front of them.

We are in our mid-40s and we were both self employed and lost our businesses in the crash six years ago. We have gone through many hellish times and we would both be strong and positive, but six years is a long time and we are now both frayed at the edges to say the least.

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My mind is in constant turmoil. My stomach churns regularly and there are many days I just don’t want to even get out of bed. The thought of not knowing if you will still have your home in 12 months time can actually drive you crazy.

My husband copes a lot better than me and he is amazing. Always my rock, always my protector. I worry that if one of us dies, will the other be strong enough to carry on? We are like two peas in a pod and I dream of the day that we can both start living again.

Family get on with their own lives and we understand that. But you wonder do they have any idea how dehabilitating and soul destroying the last six years have been?

Some of our family have been truly amazing. Thank you J,C and P for your unwavering support, for not judging us and for being there when we were so close to the edge. We will be eternally grateful. God bless you.

We still have a good sense of humour and happy hearts but you can never really relax or switch off from the reality that the bailiffs are getting nearer and nearer. They come in groups of four or five with big wooden boards and metal fixings to board up your windows and doors. They phone you the day before and tell you they don’t want to upset you and that really they are gentle giants and suggest that you you slip out in the middle of the night and leave the keys under the mat.

This is called a voluntary surrender so the term evicted cannot be applied and the government can save face. Very clever. This is where the Land League comes in, AKA Gerry Beades and the Vincent Brown kerfuffles outside the O’Donnell residence. They will prevent the bailiffs from entering the property and use legal loopholes to delay the inevitable. Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of anarchy and the Land League have helped many people and are graciously generous with their time but it just causes further humiliation to have the Land League and the bailiffs arguing the toss in full view of your neighbours who haven’t a clue what’s going on.

After four years of struggling to pay the banks what we could (we never paid nothing) the court proceedings started. They are inevitable. Do not believe the banks when they tell you they will work with you. They won’t. Once it goes to court they will not settle for less than repossession. We have had many adjournments and were grateful for the opportunity to re-establish ourselves and build up a new business. We live in a popular tourist area and have built up a successful business but it has taken all our time and effort.

LAST November we presented the banks and the courts with extremely viable proposals. They were rejected by the banks ( they always are) and the judge sided with them. A ruling was made that we must pay the full mortgage or the bank would repossess. We were just putting together the final phase of the new business that would enable us to pay our full mortgage but there was to be no mercy in court on that day. We struggled immensely to pay it and get the business finished on time but we got there. The judges are repossessing homes at an alarming rate. We returned to the same court last month and expected a pat on the back or at least a grunt of approval and what happened? The judge said that time had run out for us and unless we could provide a list of impossible demands, a ruling for repossession would be made. So in a nutshell, we are now paying our full mortgage, we are addressing our arrears and have established a new business and at the end of a six-year battle and the toughest road you can imagine, the judge is going to repossess anyway?

What does that tell you? It tells us that the courts are now showing absolutely no mercy, do not care about mitigating circumstances and they will eventually repossess your home — one way or the other. We now need a miracle.

The bank’s barrister is very clever (we can’t afford one and are representing ourselves) and is now trying to prove that our new business is not viable. The mind boggles. The man whose case was up before ours had a severely handicapped child, schools within walking distance from their home, an uncle willing to pay off 50% of his mortgage and his wife had just received a substantial pay rise. The judge made an order for repossession. I saw that man physically shrink in front of me.

Most of us now represent ourselves and feel each other’s pain and frustration. ‘You’re alright,’ they told me as the court recessed for the Almighty to have lunch (and yes, you would be hoping they’d choke on it) ‘you are paying your full mortgage,’ and yes I thought we were lucky to be in that position now. And then bang, two hours later I was completely derailed by the ruling. I left the court a quivering wreck. You sit there all day waiting to be called, mostly on your own — a lamb to the slaughter.

Then you have to call your spouse and tell him the bad news. I was totally alone and utterly bewildered. Xanax, alcohol or Kleenex were not going to make this feeling go away. I longed for someone to knock me out or give me an anesthetic to numb the rising panic in my chest. Nobody gets it unless they have been through it.

The insolvency bill was never going to work. We knew that and decided not to apply. Bankruptcy is not an option as you lose your home. Alan Shatter announced last year he was going to step up to the mark and then swiftly resigned.

Seemingly there is a new bill going through as I write this but unless the government call off the dogs, I can’t see how it’s going to prevent thousands of homes being repossessed and families left shattered.

Watch the increase in suicides again, watch the greedy landlords and auctioneers once again line their pockets. Have we learned nothing from the economic crash? Enda Kenny, shame on you.

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