Clever ruse to avoid paying bungalow bill

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The Independent Online
For Gerry Balmbra, an Englishman's bungalow is his castle. When he fell behind with his mortgage repayments banking officials strode in and repossessed his property. But, they failed to realise that Wingrove House has a most effective moat and access would entail one of two things ... hiring a helicopter or taking up pole vaulting.

Mr Balmbra's daughter owns the land surrounding the house and is steadfastly refusing to give anyone permission to cross it.

The powers-that-be at the Bank of Scotland are now embroiled in a legal battle to try and gain access to the house they own - estimated to be worth pounds 250,000.

The four bedroom stone-fronted house, complete with sauna, was built by Mr Balmbra in 1984, on land at his builder's yard near Alnwick Moor in Northumberland.

He took out a mortgage on the home so he could invest in his building firm, but fell behind with repayments and the house was repossessed four days before Christmas last year.

Mr Balmbra, 58, had transferred ownership of the land around the home to his daughter, Lesley, now 30, in 1992. She helps to run the adjacent builder's yard where her father is living in a caravan.

Another obstacle in the bank's way is a restriction written into the original deeds which states that only Mr Balmbra and his immediate family can live in the house.

Mr Balmbra's solicitor, Barry Row, of Row and Scott in Newcastle, said: "The Bank of Scotland appear to have overlooked the fact the land they gave a mortgage on was surrounded by land which didn't belong to Mr Balmbra. They have a problem."

"I suppose in a way you can say we are having the last laugh at the moment," said Mr Balmbra. "But in reality this is not that funny. We were kicked out of our house four days before Christmas, even though we pleaded for one last Christmas there.

"They have acted like shits ever since. We didn't start this. When we went to re-mortgage the house the bank didn't do the proper searches to see if there were any restrictions with the property and there were 18 in all. They are left with a house they can't sell and it's their fault.

"We won't give up the access because we don't want to see someone else living in the house we worked so hard to build."

Alan Scouller, a spokesman for the Bank of Scotland, said: "We have rightfully obtained possession of the property and are seeking to realise that security for a debt. There are some planning conditions which are unduly onerous which are preventing us from proceeding."