Homeowner stunned by threat of eviction

Melanie Bien on the tale of a man who thought he'd repaired relations with his bank, only to get a court order

When Roger Evans was mugged in May 2002, he had no idea this would trigger a sequence of events that finally led to a court summons being issued on behalf of NatWest, his mortgage lender, to gain possession of his house.

When Roger Evans was mugged in May 2002, he had no idea this would trigger a sequence of events that finally led to a court summons being issued on behalf of NatWest, his mortgage lender, to gain possession of his house.

Yet this is exactly what happened. And to make matters worse, Mr Evans received the court summons just three weeks after agreeing to a new schedule of mortgage repayments.

"For court papers to arrive unexpected and unannounced in the post was an awful shock," he says. "I can't believe the bank is attempting to repossess my property while I continue to pay the agreed monthly payments."

A spokesman for NatWest says it needed to take precautionary measures. "Because of past history, this is standard practice. Mr Evans has defaulted twice on his payments before so we want extra protection."

The problems started shortly after he was mugged. Mr Evans became depressed and was unable to work for six months. He then lost his job and claimed state benefits for the following 11 months, while he paid what he could towards the mortgage.

"I kept the bank informed of my circumstances while I was out of work and asked that it renegotiate my mortgage so I would pay less each month and over a longer period. This, they agreed to consider."

On 21 April this year, NatWest sent him a letter demanding full repayment of the outstanding mortgage - £109,775.56. It stated that solicitors had been instructed to apply to the courts for a possession order. To avoid eviction, Mr Evans was told, he could either settle the full balance or pay £1,160.57 a month to clear the arrears.

Mr Evans contacted NatWest and agreed to pay £1,250 a month from 25 May, since he is now in full-time employment. This was confirmed in writing.

So he was shocked to receive a summons from Shoreditch County Court three weeks later. This stated that NatWest wanted to evict him because his mortgage was "in arrears by at least two monthly payments despite numerous requests".

Because Mr Evans had agreed to the new schedule of repayments, he contacted the bank. The NatWest spokesman says it was then explained to him that the bank wasn't actually trying to evict him. Instead, it was after a suspended possession order.

But the summons states that NatWest does want to evict him; there is no mention of a suspended order. It is also common practice for lenders to apply for evictions, not suspended orders; the court decides whether a suspension is more appropriate because the borrower has agreed to a repayment plan.

NatWest explains that if the court grants a suspended order and Mr Evans defaults on any repayments during the next six months, the bank can apply to the court for bailiffs to evict him. But Mr Evans says this is the first time anyone has mentioned he is on a six-month probationary period. He says it wasn't explained that if he kept up repayments for six months, he'd be regarded as a "normal" client again and wouldn't be evicted.

It isn't clear why NatWest agreed to the repayment plan if it thought there was such a strong chance that he would default. It also seems odd the bank didn't tell Mr Evans that even though it had agreed a repayment plan with him, it would continue to bring legal proceedings against him.

The NatWest spokesman says there seems to be "some form of misunderstanding" and that the only reason Mr Evans thought the bank was seeking to evict him was that the court sends out "an all-encompassing document", which makes no mention of a suspended order.

He admits that this document can seem daunting: "When I first saw [the form], it does look a bit harsh," he says. But he adds that when Mr Evans contacted NatWest after receiving the court papers, "it was explained that if he agreed to the repayments, everything would be fine".

Mr Evans is now awaiting the court's decision. The case was adjourned for 28 days because NatWest failed to supply a breakdown of what it claims he owes the bank.

NatWest continues to maintain that if people get into difficulty with their mortgage, it will do its best for them. "It is always in our interest to help the customer," says the spokesman.

But Mr Evans begs to differ. "The bank is only there for its clients in good times," he says. "I have been banking with NatWest since 1992 and was on good terms with it for 10 years."

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