It was a long process when we obtained our mortgage from Northern Rock, details of our imports and assets scrutinized before a last minute decision given. With hindsight, we could have stayed put living in a 2 bedroom house surrounded by the yobs who I normally end up taking into the police station! I could say something to them, but the prospect of having any windows left or my children being harassed by the charming individuals, was a big factor in moving.
So we bought a new house, our budget allowed for the monthly payments plus an extra 1% increase in the interest rates as a contingency.
Everything was going well, until the fateful Sub-Primacy scandal unfolding in the USA. With a bit of concern I contacted Northern Rock, who assured me that my mortgage was safe and I had nothing to worry about. I was still tied into their product for another year anyway.
Re-assured I watched the events unfold in the USA, my attention being drawn to comments being made regarding companies in the UK with a 'bit' of exposure in the USA. Hold on did someone just mention Northern Rock!
As we like to say the rest is history, Northern Rock went into meltdown. All attempts to re-mortgage were met with an unsympathetic 'No' and some to add insult to the situation, stated that I should not borrow so much in the first place! Did I not seek the advice of financial advisors in the first place to obtain the mortgage!
Regardless of the now experts informing me that I should of been more responsible in my borrowing, this did not help my situation. I continued to make inquiries with several financial organizations, including my bank who I had been a loyal customer with for over 23 years! No help offered apart from the flippant remark of trying selling your house and buying a smaller one!
More help was to come from Northern Rock, who stated that my 2 year fixed period was due to expire and owed to their current situation, they would be able to offer a competitive rate! I had budgeted for a 1% increase, but when they informed me, my mortgage would have increased by a 2.5% increase, it was something I had not allowed for. This was an increase of £ 400 per month on my mortgage, with the added problem of no other mortgage company wishing to offer me anything, this was going to get tough!
I had to prioritize my outstanding debts to give me the money to cover my extra mortgage payment. The only option was to consolidate all my unsecured debt through a debt management company. They would contact all my creditors offering a monthly payment. By doing this I recovered the extra funds required for the mortgage.
Northern Rock were not happy by charging over 2.5% above the base rate, when we had the recent interest rate reduction of 0.5%, they could only manage to pass on .15% to me! So how does that work then, was the reduction just for the benefit of the banks who had made massive errors in investing in ill-thought products or was it for the customers facing 5% inflation and increased mortgage repayments? Answers on a postcard only!
The situation was about to turn into more of a farce, when Halifax decided that the monthly payment offered by the debt management company was not good enough. Interest was piled on top of the outstanding balance, plus charges in excess of the £ 12 fee normally reserved for accounts in arrears being charged. They also embarked on a campaign of harassment, 15 automated phone calls in 1 day. On a number of occasions, the phone being answered by my daughter only to have the phone put down on them!
When I did speak with staff from Halifax, they demanded I pay the outstanding balance, or face legal action. Any attempt to inform them that a debt management company was now instructed to make the monthly payments, they ignored this information and at times rudely reminded me that it was my responsibility to pay this debt off. With regards to the phone calls, they were totally unco-operative in reviewing their procedures which at times caused distress for persons answering the phone. Now that is what I call customer service.
To remedy all the unjustices I had faced from banks, I decided to instruct a company to recover my bank charges. A company 'BankSmart' offered a no win no fee service in recovering bank charges and credit card fees. This was going to be sweet justice I thought, someone standing up for Joe public against these seemingly untouchable financial institutions.
Details of all my accounts were submitted to BankSmart, who after a couple of weeks informed me I would be able to recover my costs from the Banks. Brilliant, I could not help revenge would be mine!
It was too good to be true, despite their initial sales pitch and letters confirming how much they would be able to recover for me. I now received notification that because the amount being claimed on some accounts, were less than £ 150. This would not be viable for them and to cover their costs, I would have to pay £ 100!
Hold on, I submit my accounts for them to review and confirm how much I can recover. I sign a contract stating I will not deal directly with the banks to recover my costs, if I did I would be liable for a cancellation charge. This was a catch 22 situation, I could not cancel or proceed without incurring charges. Now I was thoroughly confused, a company purporting to offer help in recovering illegal bank charges, were now charging me more than the banks did, because the amount was less than £ 150. How is this no risk, no win, no fee!
Whats the answer, well I am now considering bankruptcy, handing my house back to Northern Rock, leaving the country and starting afresh in a place were the bandits are easily recognized, at least this way I can see them coming!
This country is now too expensive for any person in full time employment above the benefits, tax credit thresholds to live. It is no longer the country who I want to put my life on the line for, which I have on a daily basis!
The boys and girls who are currently representing our country in foreign fields are not supported by the government. My colleges are actively involved in raising funds for a facility providing rehabilitation for wounded soldiers!
Sorry my soap box is starting to strain under my weight! Am I a lone voice, I think not, will I be listened to, probably not.