COUNTY NEWS: Elderly Sussex couple face losing home in mortgage shock
An elderly couple face losing their home of 17 years due to the bank refusing to extend their mortgage.
Len and Val Fitzgerald were forced by circumstances to take up an interest-only mortgage on their Eastbourne home in 2007.
Due to Santander rules, the couple have to pay back the mortgage in full when they reach 75. Now they are calling on the bank to extend the mortgage until they are 85.
Mr Fitzgerald, 77, said: “We hardly sleep. It’s a hell of a situation to be in when you are in your late 70s, to rip up the home you have been in for 17 years. We are pushing like hell for Santander to extend it.
“I had a minor stroke which I’m sure was brought on by the stress. That’s the situation that can arise when you are in such a stressful situation.”
The couple say they have been given two months to find alternative accommodation.
They bought the Brightland Road house back in 2003 on a 10-year repayment mortgage because they both were working and could afford to pay it.
However when Val lost her job their income dropped considerably, so they took on the interest-only mortgage in 2007.
They now owe £180,000 on the property which is worth £250,000 – a high loan-to-value rating which rules out equity release or downsizing.
Mr Fitzgerald said: “Our equity is not safe enough to think about buying somewhere else, so we’d have to rent – we really don’t want to do that.
“We have been here for 17 years. We have friends and neighbours and a dog who’s part of the family.
“We are asking Santander to push their age limit up to 85. At that stage we will sell the house to repay the mortgage and probably move into an old people’s accommodation.
“They are sticking by their rules. It’s not costing them anything at all but if they were to be repaid we would be in a situation where we would have no where to live.
“There seems to be no point having to sell our house, be on the streets and Santander just lend the money to someone else.”
The town’s MP Stephen Lloyd is supporting the couple in their fight.
He said: “This is a frail elderly couple who always paid their mortgage interest on time every month without ever missing a payment, yet because of some arcane internal decision the bank refuses to allow anyone over the age of 75 to retain their interest-only mortgage.
“Santander are prepared to throw them out into the street which is a shocking and callous decision. I am sure there are thousands of other families potentially facing the same, desperate situation which is unacceptable.”
The MP has arranged a meeting with the Treasury Minister to discuss the case and has submitted an Early Day Motion in Parliament.
A spokesperson for Santander said: “It is not in the interest of either customers or the bank to lend in circumstances where we believe it will become unaffordable in the future.
“We have been working with the Fitzgeralds to find an alternative resolution to their request to vary their original mortgage terms and have guided them towards finding appropriate financial advice. We will continue to work to help them find a solution.”