Divorced borrowers meet discrimination: Money Grouse

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The Independent Online
Nicole Jones believes she is being discriminated against by mortgage lenders because she is a divorced woman.

Under the court order that followed her divorce last December, she was awarded ownership of the family house. The court order stated that she should take over the pounds 71,000 mortgage that she and her ex-husband had shared. She was also given permission to extend the mortgage to pounds 74,000 to pay for necessary building works. But she has not found a lender who will accept her as a customer on these terms.

She believes, however, that she has solid credentials as a borrower. The court order required her ex-husband, a university professor, to pay her maintenance for the rest of her life, not just for a few years. The house is worth about pounds 95,000. But, with only one exception, the lenders appear to have been reluctant to accept maintenance income in the mortgage calculation. Maintenance payments make up half her income. The other half she earns from her psychotherapy practice. Taken together, she says, her two sources of income are well over a third of the amount she wants to borrow.

Nine months after the divorce came through Mrs Jones is still the joint owner of the property with her ex-husband, a position with which she is uncomfortable. She has approached nearly all the large building societies, she says, but - apart from National & Provincial - they refused to lend unless her husband remained a party to the deal.

The Independent spoke to Halifax and Woolwich. Both said that, in theory, divorced women should be in the same position as other borrowers but that, in practice, there could often be problems. A spokesman for Halifax said that a common stumbling block was the promise of maintenance payments that would stop when the couple's children reached 18, but before the mortgage period expired.

National & Provincial agrees that lending against income from maintenance payments is riskier than other lending, but it has still decided to class it as 'just another source of income'. However, N&P would not lend Mrs Jones more than 75 per cent of the property value. So she has begun her search again.

'With such a high divorce rate I think this must be a common problem,' she said. 'The building societies are making a complete mockery of the court order.'

Write to Money Grouse, The Independent, 40 City Road, London E1CY 2DB. Please include a daytime telephone number if possible. Do not send original documents or SAEs, as we cannot guarantee to deal with every letter personally.

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