Pair face ruin over mortgage dispute

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The Independent Online

Chief Reporter

A couple who made legal history by successfully suing Lloyds Bank over bad mortgage advice are back in court tomorrow to defend a counter claim which could bankrupt them.

Despite being awarded pounds 77,500 against the bank last September, Julia Verity and Richard Spindler will end up as losers if the four-day hearing over a disputed pounds 160,000 debt goes against them.

The couple sprang to prominence when Judge Robert Taylor, sitting at the High Court in Leeds, found that their bank manager had been negligent in lending them money to renovate a house in Henley-on-Thames in 1988. They intended to sell the house at a profit but ended up losing thousands when the housing market crashed.

"We hoped that would be the end of it, but the bank seems determined to see us bankrupted," Mr Spindler, 36, said yesterday.

The latest hearing relates to an alleged debt which the couple argue should have been wiped out with last September's judgment but which the bank regards as separate.

Mr Spindler, an acupuncturist, and Mrs Verity, a 55-year-old teacher, each had a house in Henley and were advised to take out a third mortgage to renovate the property at the centre of the dispute.

In 1990, when the couple realised their finances were going seriously awry, Mr Spindler sold his property in Henley for pounds 90,000. At the time, he had an outstanding mortgage of pounds 30,000 and Mrs Verity owed pounds 60,000 on her home. They assumed that the proceeds would be assigned to those debts but the bank assigned them to the third mortgage instead.

"That means that the bank regards our original mortgages - plus interest - as unpaid," said Mr Spindler. "But if they had used that money to clear our mortgages - as we had wished - then with the court's decision that the third loan was negligent, we wouldn't owe anything.

"Instead of that, they are now coming after us for those mortgages which we wanted clearing in 1990. We won the case in September, but Lloyds have found a way of coming back at us, wanting two bites at the cherry."

If the case goes against Mr Spindler and Mrs Verity and the amount awarded to the bank is greater than the pounds 77,500 awarded to them last September, they could be left to pay the pounds 160,000 and the bank's legal costs, which they estimate at up to pounds 40,000.

"That would finish us and, after seven years of battling against the bank, we would finally be forced into bankruptcy," said Mrs Verity. "It seems very unfair that we won and yet could still end up as losers."

When their last case ended, Mr Spindler and Mrs Verity announced that they were separating because of their age difference and Mr Spindler's desire to start a family.

Yesterday, the couple were still together at Mrs Verity's home but they remain resigned to an amicable separation.

"We're seeing it through together until the end," said Mrs Verity.