Property: `My loan jumped from 25 years to 35 without my consent'

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Simon Williams has a mortgage with Abbey National. This is his story.

"In 1991, I took out a 25-year repayment mortgage with the Abbey National for pounds 33,375. In August this year, I went to a local branch to check out my account details. Purely by chance I was allowed to look at my account details on the mortgage adviser's monitor, and saw my outstanding mortgage term was given as 34 years and eight months.

After six weeks of waiting, Abbey explained that although the contract had been for a 25-year repayment mortgage, they had set up the loan on an interest-only basis, with a 60-year term. They went on to admit: "This was identified in 1993, when the computer system re-calculated all extended terms to 35 years." At no time did I receive any notification of these changes, which had been carried out without my consent. Abbey National wrote: "It should have been clear that your outstanding balance was not decreasing as you expected."

But with a repayment mortgage, I expected the first few years of monthly payments would mainly meet interest charges rather than capital repayment.

Abbey's end-of-year statements made no mention of type of mortgage, interest- rate changes, or outstanding term. I [complained and] was offered pounds 326.63 against excess interest paid on the account, plus pounds 500 towards the capital sum. Abbey wrote to me again in November this year, saying my case might take time to investigate, and asking me to suggest a figure for final compensation as part of an "experiment being carried out this month".

But I intend taking this case to the Banking Ombudsman, unless they re- instate my original mortgage. What worries me most is that all this only came to light by chance, and then my persistence in pursuing the matter. Finally, I am still awaiting a full breakdown of my account details."

Mr Williams' case is now being dealt with by Abbey National's secretariat, which has responsibility for investigating complaints in the final stage of the bank's complaint procedure. Ian Hart, manager of the secretariat, refuses to comment on the case but says the so-called experiment of asking complainants to suggest a compensation figure is standard practice and was not just "being carried out this month".