A widow was forced to raise £100,000 after a series of crises including her husband’s suicide left her at risk of being homeless, after she was landed with a staggering debt she knew nothing about.
Two years of turmoil began for Anyssa Neumann after she and her partner Alastair Putt were forced to uproot their lives, when a stolen car crashed into their Grade II listed south London home in December 2021.
It was the second time in three years that a vehicle had ploughed through the walls of their property, with Bromley Council refusing to install bollards despite their frequent pleas.
Combined with the stress of the Covid-19 lockdown and a disastrous financial investment prior to the crash, Ms Neumann’s 39-year-old husband began suffering a mental health breakdown and he killed himself in August 2022.
Despite her home being reduced to rubble, Ms Neumann was informed by Nationwide that she was required to pay back her husband’s full £80,000 loan, or her home would be repossessed.
“It has been one crisis after another, I have been in a constant triage mode fighting fires, trying to figure out who didn’t do what they were supposed to, and then having to fix it myself,” Ms Neumann said.
Meanwhile, Bromley Council has continued to refuse to install bollards outside her home on the junction of High Street Penge, and forced her to wait months until approving the restoration plans for reconstruction works.
When the first crash occurred in 2019, Ms Neumann had been standing only three metres from the impact sight. A speeding car which began to spin out of control ploughed through her living room, causing significant damage which forced her and her husband to move out for eight weeks.
“We immediately wrote to our councillors and said someone could have been seriously injured or killed, and could bollards be installed on the road outside,” she said.
“They wrote back saying that we weren’t going to do anything as they didn’t think it was a problem and we were simply unlucky.
“This went on for several weeks and eventually my husband and I dropped it.”
Less than three years later however, a stolen car being driven at 60mph crashed through into the kitchen and caused severe structural damage. The perpetrators fled the scene and have never been caught, while the couple’s home became inhabitable for 16 months.
Ms Neumann was unaware however that her husband, a talented composer, had taken out an £80,000 mortgage and had invested it on the stock market, losing a total of £50,000 in the process.
With the combined stress of losing his home, no work and isolation caused by the Covid-19 lockdown, Mr Putt he began to spiral into a breakdown and was sectioned, before killing himself a few weeks after his release.
Despite her attempts to seek legal help, she was informed by Nationwide that she was required to repay the entire balance by 31 October 2023, otherwise her home would be repossessed.
Due to her career as a freelance musician, she was unable to secure her own loan while a forced sale of her Bromley home in its dilapidated condition would not be enough for her to find another property.
“The building works were supposed to finish in the summer of 2022 but didn’t finish until April 2023 because of Bromley Council taking such a long time to approve the works. It has just been a catalogue of errors and negligence all the way.”
As well as the Nationwide repayment, she was faced with additional costs after Bromley Council charged her insurance company £43,000 for emergency scaffolding which had been in place for six months.
This was despite their delay in approving repair works, which left her home “open to the elements” for 16 months, causing damp, mould and cracked tiles.
Her husband’s funeral and cremation arrangements, as well as legal advice and resolving his financial affairs hadalso cost a staggering £25,000, draining her of their savings.
“It’s just been an endless state of panic and incredible stress and on top of all that my husband killed himself at the age of 39,” she said.
“My career is in shambles and not only am I trying to manage his death but I have also been displaced multiple times. It feels like I jumped into the ocean to save my husband who is drowning and I’ve just been treading water since.”
Thankfully, a GoFundMe organised by her sister has succeeded in raising over £100,000 for Ms Neumann to repay her loan in full. Any additional funds will now go towards maintenance and repair works, after her house was left “filthy” by the crash and damage.
“This house is the last anchor I have,” she said. “That house and my cat are all I have left from the last few years.
“When people ask how I feel, I think I’m still stunned by everything that happened in the past 20 months, and still in crisis management mode, that it’s hard to find the words to explain the incomprehensible. My life exploded, and the shrapnel is still falling. It’s like I’m living someone else’s life, except it’s actually mine.”
A Nationwide spokesperson said: “We sympathise with Ms Neumann for the difficult and upsetting circumstances she found herself in.
“We have been regularly communicating with her and in July agreed a period of non-repayment until April 2024, six months more than our standard policy, to give her more time to consider her options. The mortgage has been fully repaid and we are in the process of closing the mortgage and will update her once this has been finalised.”
Bromley Council was approached for comment.
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