Simon Read: The mystery of repossession?

In Franz Kafka's 'The Trial', the character of Josef K gets arrested out of the blue. He is never told what his crime is or, indeed, given a chance to defend himself. Peter Addyman is not a fictional character, but found himself in a similar nightmare to Josef K last year.

Peter is an architect and family man who lives in St Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex with his wife and three children. The family has a £226,000 interest-only mortgage with NatWest and took out a new loan with the bank last March. So far, so ordinary.

But in September everything changed when, to their surprise and distress, they got a shocking letter from the bank. NatWest wrote to tell the Addymans it would no longer provide a mortgage for them, adding that "our decision is final and we are not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it".

Worse, the bank gave the couple only 30 days to find a new mortgage. The bank gave no reason for its decision and – in subsequent dealings with Which? magazine and the Financial Ombudsman Service – remains tight-lipped about what prompted its actions.

The Addymans set about remortgaging, but the housing market collapse has left their home worth less than the amount they owe on the mortgage. As a consequence, no other lender was prepared to help them out, forcing them to go back to NatWest and report the difficulties they were having finding another mortgage. The next communication they had from the bank was a letter – sent two weeks before Christmas – informing the worried pair that proceedings for possession would commence unless they repaid the mortgage within seven days.

By now the family were desperately worried about losing their home and being forced into bankruptcy. With their pleas at the bank falling on deaf ears they turned to their local Citizens Advice Bureau, which in turn put the couple in touch with Which?

The consumer body took up the fight on behalf of the Addymans, taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman. The move meant NatWest had to put its repossession plans on hold until the Ombusdman's decision. That came last week with the Ombudsman saying it was "not satisfied" by NatWest's order to repay the mortgage without giving an explanation. It said the bank had not treated the couple "fairly or reasonably". It then threw out an appeal by NatWest.

The cheering news means the Addymans won't be thrown out of their home. But the story should send a chill through homeowners across the country. It suggests that lenders are choosing to ignore government policy not to rush into repossessing homes.

With millions facing the risk of negative equity, the worry of repossession should not be following close behind. With no clue about the reasons behind NatWest's actions, we can only speculate. Sources suggest that lenders would normally only follow such a path if they were worried about a borrower's actions damaging the value of a property. For instance, if they discovered it was being used as a brothel or turned into a drug den. Neither is true in the Addymans case, which leaves me as puzzled as Josef K.

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Guru Careers: Management Accountant

    £27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

    Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

    £40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power