Posted: Thursday February 17 2011, Blog Tags:
This article looks at claims made by legal representation group, New Beginnings, that mortgage lenders are altering documents without the holders consent or knowledge. There is also information on a new charity, the Phoenix Project, who aims to help struggling homeowners.
A GROUP offering free legal representation in the High Court to people facing home repossession has claimed some mortgage files have been altered by brokers and banks.
The New Beginning group, established last year, said only three of the 150 clients it had dealt with had possession of their files.
In every other case, the file was still held by the bank or mortgage provider.
In a few cases, recovery of the file by the homeowner appeared to show some details had been altered without consent.
David Hall, a co-founder of New Beginning, said it was shown "categorically" details had been changed in some instances, increasing the likelihood of test cases being taken against the mortgage provider or bank — opening the way for possible damages to be paid to the homeowner.
The files — which include documentation linked to the property and associated transactions and also include original application forms — can only be recovered by the homeowner under a data protection request.
The New Beginning group said its website would shortly include a template letter which would assist homeowners in securing their own files. The group engages barristers to assist people in difficulties and who are seldom represented in the High Court when cases are called.
Mr Hall said: "We found there was a common theme in that people did not have their files prepared.
"There are a number of files, categorically, that most certainly have been altered in our view. This is something of a very serious nature."
He was confident, however, those cases would be pursued in the courts.
Meanwhile, an associated group helping homeowners and others struggling to meet mortgage repayments have seen an increase in clients.
The Phoenix Project, based in Portarlington in Co Laois, is seeing up to eight clients a day, having secured charitable status late last year.
It has dealt with small businesses, homeowners and others by appointment, while its team of accountants and solicitors hope to address the core issues affecting clients.
In cases where house repossessions come before the High Court, the cases are referred to the New Beginning group.
The founder of the Phoenix Project, William Prior said there had been an increase in client contacts but also an increase in suicides, especially in the Midlands, as a result of the impact of the recession.
"If people feel they are not able to make repayments or speak to their bankers, they can speak to us," he said.
"If it goes to the High Court they can still come into us."
The charity only charges administrative costs of €200 and if a client cannot pay, it will still provide assistance.
Mr Prior is a farmer and accountant who said he had noticed more and more people coming to his firm’s office, claiming they had severe money problems and asking him to sell sites on their property. That is seldom an option, however, given the constraints of local development plans.
* Phoenix Project Helpline: 1850 20 30 40
Noel Baker, Irish Examiner