Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Did they cover all the bases?

Whilst I was getting my hair cut on Saturday, I caught a glimpse of an article in the Daily Mirror, "Credit Card Family Forced to Live in a Vauxhall Astra".

A desperate family have been forced to live in their car after having their home repossessed.

Four-months pregnant Laura Whitney, 28, partner Richard Webster, 32, Jessica, seven, and Jack, two, have spent two weeks in their V-reg* Vauxhall Vectra. The couple could no longer pay their £62,500 mortgage, which has a 10.9 per cent interest rate, because their lender increased payments from £373 a month to £553.

Whilst I feel very sorry for the couple involved, the article is depressingly short of details. Apart from consulting the Citizen's Advice Bureau, what steps did they take to save their house? There are so many unanswered questions - maybe all those years of hanging around the Motley Fool have made me think differently, but if I'd done the interview these are the things I'd want to know and share with my readers:-
  1. What was their budget pre-reposession?
  2. And what about income? The article states that his income is £1,000 net a month. She will get child benefit (non-means-tested) of £130+ a month. The father of her first child should also be paying some form of child maintenance (unless, of course, the Child Support Agency is failing at it's job again).
  3. Did they make partial mortgage payments? Did they neglect other bills and prioritise the mortgage? Or did they leave the mortgage and pay the rest?
  4. Why isn't Laura working? "Richard works for Royal Mail and I will be happy to work again" is a pretty strong indication that she has been jobless for some time. What steps did she take to find a job before the house was repossessed?
  5. Do they have other debts? How will they pay those off? Did they prioritise those over the house?
  6. Did they claim all the relevant tax credits?
Basically, I'd want to know that they'd done everything possible to save their house before it was repossessed.

As it is written, the story just doesn't smell right. This is the UK, where there is a safety net (it's not perfect, but they'd qualify for a lot of assistance that is unavailable in other countries). They get free medical care; free prescriptions for the children and for Laura whilst she's pregnant/until the baby is a year old; ditto free dental care. The seven year old probably qualifies for free school lunches. They'd still have to pay council tax, utilities and telephone bills - no subsidies there.

Unfortunately, this couple won't be the last to have their home repossessed. By failing to answer the above questions, the Mirror missed the chance to subtly educate it's readers by providing sufficient information to help another family to save their home.

- Pam

* "V" registration cars were first registered in 1999.

1 comment:

Lydee said...

good points...