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Bankruptcy in Scotland:  The law is an ass ? 

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I enjoy writing as it can be theraputic. But this is only the 3rd post I have done this year. And it will soon be the end of June. Half the year gone.

This is because I am still horribly limited by my ME and can manage to do very little. Everything takes me ages to recover from. Maybe 90% of the time I’m sleeping, resting or recovering. Some days a bit better.  And some even worse – when in bed 24 hours out of 24.

Resting or recovering isn’t much different from sleep for me. Well, apart from not having nightmares when awake. But I’m usually unable to do anything. Just pretty much non-functional. It feels like attempting anything, no matter how small, triggers off an increase in symptons. Which is miserable. 

The Bankruptcy stuff is STILL ongoing. Since 2014. Shock after shock after shock. A constant battering to my health. And my husband’s health. It has been endless. 

And is actually getting worse. 

In my last post I had appealed for a solicitor to help. Because I was being sued by a property factor for their factors bills dating back to 2014. These bills were for their regular management charges, plus general repairs and maintenance.  And of course I was very shocked at this.

The property was one of my 14 buy-to-let flats which were handed over to the Trustee In Bankruptcy in 2014. When my health totally crashed.  All correspondence, bills, statements etc have been getting posted onto the Trustee every week since 2014. (By my husband as I have rarely been well enough to get out.)  And the point of this was that the Trustee would deal with everything. Handle everything. 

That is what I was told by the bankruptcy Adviser. That was why I was advised that bankruptcy was the best option for me, as I understood it. And why I accepted this. To “give away” the properties and all responsibility for them. I was too unwell to even think about trying to sell them myself. I wouldn’t have wanted to do this anyway at that time. I would have waited until the property values had improved. As to sell then would just have resulted in many shortfalls against the mortgages. 

I know I have laboured this point before. In this post. And this one. And this one. But it is all the more shocking to me the more that happens and the more I find out. 

IF I understand correctly what has happened recently :  It seems the original owner of the property (ie. me) is still liable for payment of bills like Factors bills from ONE DAY after their bankruptcy date. Up until the date the flat is either sold by the Trustee or legally taken back (ie. repossessed) by the mortgage lender.  Even if this takes years and years. 

In this particular case it has taken years. From 2014 until March 2017 in the case of this flat. Almost 3 years. 3 years for the mortgage lender to repossess a property which was empty. Not tenanted. And no mortgage payments getting paid on it.  And its not just this flat. As I understand it – there are still 2 other flats left.  Therefore it would seem I still legally own these also. 

Jesus wept . . . . 

Just to talk about this a bit further. 

As I understand it – all rents that were paid by tenants are taken by the Trustee. Even if any had been paid to me by the letting agents – the Trustee still gets them. As bank accounts get frozen. 

But I am still meant to (legally) pay all these bills. I mean, seriously . . . . ?   And how am I meant to do this ? Or any other ex-landlord in the same situation. 

To give a more extreme (but simple) example : 

If a bankrupt landlord owned 100 flats. And they were all tenanted. All these rents would be taken by the Trustee In Bankruptcy. And if the Trustee doesn’t sell the flats themselves and the mortgage lender takes 3 years to actually repossess them – the bankrupt ex-landlord is still liable for all these bills. So the Trustee would get 3600 rents (monthly rents for 3 years).  But the landlord would still be legally liable to pay 3600 factors bills (if the factors bill monthly).  Does he/she magic the money to pay these out of thin air ?

IF this is the law – then the law really is an ass.  (I’m in Scotland. I don’t know if it is the same in England.)  I can still hardly believe it. It seems so unreasonable.

I have requested my solicitor to email me the details of where this is wtitten in the bankruptcy legislation. ie. The name of the Act and location (section, paragraph, whatever) of where this be found.  Not that I really know what I’ll do with this once I have it. But I need to be able to actually see it for myself. And it should be made widely known I think.  So that nobody else can be given the advice we were, without being told of these consequences. 

Another point is : If any flats have been empty (not tenanted) a while – it gets even worse. As council tax bills build up too after exemption periods have been exhausted. Exemptions usually only last 6 months. 

This then implies that utility bills for any empty flats, or empty periods, are my responsibility too. Where the supplier applies a standing charge. 

This particular flat had been empty for quite a while before it was given to the Trustee in 2014.  Possibly a year, but maybe longer.  This was because the letting agent could not get any tenants for it. As I think the communal areas had deteriorated and fallen into a poor condition. This was because the previous firm of property Factors (who eventually went bankrupt themselves) failed to deal with any repairs or maintenance.  

The irony of this is not lost on me . . . 

Now I do realise (or assume) that when most people go Bankrupt they do not have a choice.  Because finances and debts have got to such a position where there is just no way to rescue things.  But my situation was different. As mentioned in previous posts – our assets well exceeded the debts.  But voluntary Bankruptcy was taken purely because the Bankruptcy Adviser clearly said that the Trustee would deal with everything. Take everything off my hands. All mail, demands, forthcoming  threats or phone calls just had to be passed onto the Trustee.  (And we knew we had to pay a big price for this financially and emotionally. The loss of our home of 15 years and all the equity in it. It was no easy option or get-out.) 

At the time of getting the bankruptcy advice nothing was in arrears. Everything was getting paid and there had been no missed payments.  I was even still getting 0% credit card offers thru. My credit score (with Experian) had been 999 (the highest in the Excellent range) for a long time. Although it had dropped down a level by early 2014 – to the Very Good range I think. I suspect because the amount of capital debt was rising, even though nothing was in arrears.  It was getting harder though – but that was more because of my health.  This previous post gives an example. 

I know they say ignorance of the law is no excuse. And it seems to be no defence either. But seriously – would anyone reasonably expect this to be the case?  Even my administrator at the Trustee said she would dispute the claim because it wasn’t my fault all those factors bills had built up. Plus the fact that I have no income or savings with which to pay, or even make a payment arrangement. (This wasn’t legal advice of course. She told me the Trustee do not have any in-house solicitors that could advise me.)  

To add insult to injury – I have no way of knowing if any of the work billed for by these Factors has actually been done. Plus – I don’t even have the bills I am being forced to pay. They were all sent onto the Trustee over the last 3 years. (Everything has been sent onto them. It is what we were told to do.)  Then everything regarding the Factors claim was sent to the solicitor. 

Words cannot describe how unjust this whole situation feels. 

Now this same firm of Factors have started more court proceedings for “planned maintenance” bills.  The next one is for £4900.00 and has been allocated a claim number for court.  And they have stated they will be further suing for yet another amount for “planned and ongoing maintenance” – this time for a sum below £2000.00 .

In addition, the council for the Motherwell area where this flat is (North Lanarkshire Council) have now sent me a demand for almost £2600.00 for council tax. It was delivered by sherriff officers acting for the council. I  sent it the Trustee right away. As they are still administering my Bankruptcy. They have now sent it back to me and suggested I ask the solicitor about it. 

We cannot afford to pay for any more legal help. Husband has been working 7 days a week for a while now to be able to pay for the recent legal fees.  And towards repaying the friend who very kindly gave us a cheque for the current demand. 

Neither of us would be able to obain any loans now as our credit records will be utterly trashed as a consequence of the bankruptcy.  And hubby working 7 days a week is hard – given that I can hardly do anything around the house. And he does almost everything.  Just a week or two ago he had the lovely task of emptying plastic jugs I was having to use in the bedroom – as I was too ill to manage to the bathroom. Too much info I know, but this is how bad it can be. And scrunching up A4 envelopes so I could use them to breathe into (like a paper bag) when I felt panic attacks coming on. 

How much more can he be expected to do? 

And how much more battering can my health take ? Or husband’s. 

Trying to communicate with the solicitor over the last few months has taken a massive amount out of me.  If I was well enough to do this sort of thing I wouldn’t have needed to consider voluntary bankruptcy in the first place.  

It was made harder for me as I don’t think they could understand how bad ME actually is, especially when symptoms are severe.  For example : how do you sucessfully communicate how bad your brain fog (aka cognitive dysfunction) is – when this is one of my worst symptoms?  

Sometines I wondered if they actually thought I was exagerrating about how limited I am. And how long it takes me to “recover” from the exertion involved in a simple thing like an email or a phone conversation. A simple thing to them but a very exhausting thing for me. Always triggering a big worsening of ME symptoms and being more ill for days on end.  And I found myself trying to explain over and over how badly limited I am. Then giving examples. Not becsuse I was looking for sympathy or anything. But because all this legal and court stuff have time limits set. And I was terrified of what would happen if I couldn’t do things in time. This was so exhausting and I had been hoping for some reassurance that accomodations would be made if necessary.  But I can only assume that no such accomodations can be made. 

I really don’t know what to do now. 

I’m really not well enough to use the internet to look for ideas. Or make longish phone calls. I don’t mean these things are impossible 100% of the time. But I can only manage a very short time doing things without it making me more ill. Then I’m knocked out for days.  And I get nothing done. 

I can’t think straight about any of this. The only thing I do know for sure – is that bankruptcy has been a terrible option in my situation.  3 years of Hell for mothing.

Any suggestions would be welcome. (About the forthcoming claims.) Any info that might be helpful would be great, eg. phone numbers, websites, email addresses.

Thanks for reading. 

PS.  I haven’t put the links in yet – where I’ve mentioned previous posts.  Will add soon. 

I can’t take much more . . . 

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I need the help of a good solicitor in Glasgow

HAVE REMOVED THE BULK OF THIS BLOG POST.   FOR LEGAL REASONS. 

I only have enough energy just now to copy below an email I sent to my usual solicitor last week. As it gives some background.
But he told me his firm don’t do civil court cases therefore cannot help.

HAVE REMOVED ALL OF THE DETAIL FROM THIS PART TOO.

” I am simply not well enough to phone around. Therefore adding this to my blog. And will advertise/appeal on Twitter.
Maybe not ideal but its all I can think of.

HAVE REMOVED STUFF HERE TOO.

It makes phone calls too hard. I can’t remember stuff, communicate what I need to say, get muddled, etc.
This email is massively hard work and exhausting. But I can take hours over it with breaks. Change mistakes, etc.

And another worry is any time limits for things. This is also why I feel I need proper representation.
Because with ME – when I push myself to use extra energy on something big (like typing this email) – I am then much worse for the next few days. Often completely wiped out with severe headaches and exhaustion.

So I’m concerned that I won’t be able to do things quickly enough, eg. any forms needed.

Sorry this is so long.
Will wait to hear from you.

Hope you are well and business is good.

Best regards

Anne Dean ”

Blog post amended 26/4/2017.

Apologies if it doesn’t make much sense now. My priority was just to delete any specific detail about the legal issue. Even although no actual names were mentioned, I felt it was sensible to do this. 

 

My Life so far – NOT what I expected

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image

I save a lot of pics like this if I see them on twitter or somewhere – just because I like them.  Mainly funny, upbeat,  philosophical, inspiring,  motivating etc.
Something a friend said to me in a text message recently reminded me of this picture.
It certainly describes my life.

But I’m not OK with it – yet. That will take a while.

I’m 55 – and now have nothing.

The post from 7 Feb 2015 titled Battered, Bruised and Bankrupt explains.

When I say nothing – I mean nothing financially. And no security.

No money
No income
No savings
No ability to earn any income because of all the ME symptoms severely affecting my life. (Certainly not just now.)
No Benefits – I am not well enough to deal with the process. Nowhere near well enough.
No GP ( or as good as no GP).
I do own 50% of this flat I now live in with my husband – but at the moment this is 50% of nothing (financially). As it has a large mortgage on it and there is no equity in it.
And we now have nothing to pay off the interest-only mortgage with in 8 years time. We did have various mortgage Endowments – but they were taken from us by the Trustee In Bankruptcy and cashed in.

Worked hard since 17

With Commercial Union Assurance (now part of Aviva) for 19 years.
Then Prudential for almost a year.
Then NTL ( now Virgin Media) in telecoms for 4 years

Studied for professional qualifications in Insurance (Life and Pensions) and Financial Services (for Compliance work).
Obtained A.C.I.I ( ie. Associateship Of The Chartered Insurance Institute) in the Life & Pensions branch early 1980s .
Obtained MLIA {Dip) and FPC (Financial Planning Certificate} in early 1990s.
During the early 1980s I also worked in pub jobs for 3 (sometimes 4) nights a week – on top of my full time job. I did this over a period of a few years and think I worked in 5 different pubs.
The reason – to save up for my 1st flat. For the deposit, costs and fees, furniture, etc.
I was keen to do this but not have any debt when I moved in.

All these jobs/careers I had to give up and resign from due to my health. And all the symptoms of what I now know to be ME (or CFS as it was called at my diagnosis).
NB. I left all these jobs with nothing – even after 19 years in Commercial Union.
There was no help or support from my GP at all. And I just wasn’t well enough to be able to push for more help.

Finally got diagnosed with what was called CFS in 2003.
After more than 12 years of going back and forwards to GP – but feeling I was being treated like a time-waster each time. As if I was just being lazy.
Appalling treatment really.

By 2004 I had to accept I just couldn’t risk working for an employer again. Assuming anyone would have me . . .
Although I was feeling a bit better again after some rest time, I still had a lot of symptoms to cope with. I knew I could only work when I was able to. And would often need big rest and recovery periods.
No employer could be expected to cope with this.

So the only option left was to work for myself.

In 2004 I started up the Property stuff seriously.
Buying the 2nd flat to rent out (ironically the one we now live in and are very glad to have !).
By using savings and remortgaging our home I got started.
Then managed to build up to owning 15 flats by 2014.
Mainly by remortgaging them or using additional borrowing to raise funds for the deposit, fees and costs to buy the next flat. When the value of the property had increased enough to allow this.

The point of this was to get to a point where I would have been able to sell off a property every year. Or maybe every 2nd year.
And the profit would give me an annual income.
(It is very hard to make any real monthly income from the rent – there are so many expenses and things to deduct from it.)

Ironically, if I had done nothing at all we would now be much better off financially.

Hindsight again . . . . A totally useless thing.

Remortgaging our home was a calculated risk. But it was the obvious and only option to use. Neither of us have ever had any inheritances or lottery wins !
It had loads of equity in it at 2014.
Partly because of the increase in the property market. But also because we had bought it in 1998 with a very small mortgage. We put down a large deposit of 65% of the purchase price.
This was done partly by saving up very hard for a few years and going without most things. Really scrimping on everything.
And the reason for this – our future security . . . .

Now at July 2015 – Bankrupt.

Husband dragged down with me – as some properties were bought in joint names.
But he has been totally supportive and never blaming me. And I’m so grateful for this.
So, the loss of everything – apart from the flat we are living in.
Oh, and we were allowed to keep our beloved BMW. Because it is so ancient now ! (Think I mentioned this in a previous post.)

As I explained in previous post, the Bankruptcy was voluntary because of my health.
I couldn’t go on.
And this was the only way, as I understood it, to give away all control and responsibility for all the properties. And hand over all dealings with everyone to a Trustee In Bankruptcy. ie. All dealings with banks, letting agents, tenants, insurance companies, etc etc.

It hasn’t worked out quite like that . . . .

But that’s life isn’t it ?
You get told something but the reality turns out to be quite different.

But at some point all this horrible Bankruptcy stuff will come to an end. And I will be able to “relax” and have some peace of mind.
No idea when this will be – impossible to get any clear info in writing.
And I will have the energy (well, more than just now) to hopefully find a decent “ME friendly” GP.
Not really for treatment – not expecting miracles. But just for some symptom control and support.

At the moment I have none of this. Just nothing at all.

But I’m still here.
And there are many people out there with ME or CFS who are much much worse than me.

So I’m grateful that I’m not even worse than I am. And that I do have “mini bursts” of energy. And can do some things. Even if the recovery time after it takes days . . . !

PS.
Apologies for any typing errors. I tried my best to check it before hitting the publish button.
But I really struggle to use my laptop or tablet etc. And am all out of energy now.

The Secret CFS/ME Files

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The Secret ME/CFS Files
File No : FD/23/4553 from the Medical Research Council (MRC)

This week or weekend I am planning to settle down and read this file. Probably with a cup of tea – although given the contents a large gin & tonic might be better.
To explain – this will be no pleasant read and have no doubt it will make me very angry. But there is no question at all that I am going to read it.
All 158 pages of it.

This is a file from the Medical Research Council (MRC) on CFS/ME. It had been filed away in the UK National Archives in 1997. And wasn’t due to be released until 2071.
The contents seemingly go back as far as 20 years.
NB. The lady who has obviously done a massive amount of work bringing this to the public attention is :

Valerie Eliot Smith ( @SnakeTempleGirl on Twitter )

She is a long-term sufferer of ME/CFS and describes herself in her twitter profile as an “angry bird”.  And how well I understand that anger. It is the Number 1 reason I started this Blog.

Why am I angry ?

1) Because of the poor treatment I have had from GPs since maybe the late 1980s. So far back it is hard to be sure now. Not angry at the fact that I wasn’t cured – but more the way I have been treated all these years. With contempt, bullying, disbelief (obvious but unspoken), no respect, disinterest, irritation, silence, blank looks, etc etc etc.
Left to rot would basically sum it up.
Take anti-depressants and get on with it.

NB. I should add here that 2 of the 3 GPs I have seen over the years I’m sure are nice people & good GPs when it comes to other problems/conditions – ie. not CFS or ME related.  (In fact they have been quite nice with a few other things over the years.)  The contempt and bullying I mention was from the 1st one and goes back a long time now.

2) Secondly because of the way people with CFS or ME are often treated by the general public.
This can include employers, work colleagues, acquaintances, relatives – and unfortunately sometimes even friends and family. We are desperate to talk about it to people important to us – not because we want sympathy or attention. But because we want them to understand how bad this condition/illness can be and how much it limits us at times.  All we want is understanding and hopefully some allowances made for us – so that the friendship can continue even when we are limited.
But sadly, sufferers sometimes experience boredom, impatience, no empathy or understanding at all, intolerance, disbelief and even nastiness.
Plus many marriages have broken down, with partners leaving. I read somewhere it was estimated 50% of marriages break down when one partner has CFS or ME. I wasn’t shocked – only surprised it wasn’t more. The stress and strain can be terrible, intolerable even, on both people. Especially over the long term.
My own marriage almost didn’t survive and came very close to breaking down in January this year. After being together since 1991. Many reasons. But I would say most caused by me having CFS such a long time. Directly and indirectly.
The sheer stress of everything over so many years, without any help (for either of us) almost finished us off. We are still struggling. Maybe not so much with our marriage but with almost everything else in our life !  It has been very hard indeed the last few years. But, after a 9 month spell apart, we are now living together again.

NB.  How does this relate to these medical files you may be wondering ?
Well although there is really no excuse for people treating us poorly –  I am sure the attitude of the medical profession ( ie. the experts) has not helped things one bit.

3) The sheer injustice of it all.
Being made to feel I was lazy or work-shy by the medical profession. And sometimes others. Always indirectly of course. Never stated outright – therefore denying me the opportunity to challenge it and put the record straight.
I worked full-time from 1977 until 1999, then part-time 1999 – 2003. And studied hard to get professional qualifications in Insurance and in Financial Services : A.C.I.I and M.L.I.A (Dip) and FPC (Financial Planning Certificate).
In the early 1980’s I worked in numerous 2nd jobs in pubs 3 or 4 nights a week – on top of my full-time job. This was to save up the deposit to buy my 1st flat (and cover all the costs, furniture, fees, etc). I was in my early 20s at the time and most of my friends were enjoying going out, socialising, etc. But I wanted to do this and just focussed on it. It wasn’t easy and I did it over a period of a few years. Until around 1986.
Then to be treated as lazy, or basically “worthless” by the medical profession – how could I fail to be angry ?
The lack of almost any medical help, or any type of help. No “Care Pathways” or “Management Guidance” offered to me at all. And being told that I wouldn’t get any financial help from the State as I would not qualify with CFS. My GP did not help me at all. In fact I think the only time my previous GP agreed to sign me off work (for 3 or 4 weeks) was when both my Mum and Dad were seriously ill in hospital at the same time. My Dad was in hospital for a month and had a lot of health problems. Then my Mum had a heart attack at the same time – and ended in in the same hospital (Glasgow Royal Infirmary) for 2 weeks.
So I maybe shouldn’t complain too much . . . Allowed time off work for 4 weeks. This was maybe 1987.
In late 2002/03 my GP then did sign me off work, and eventually diagnosed my CFS. My Mum was terminally ill at that time, and I was struggling very much even before that.
But in order to get this (signed off work I mean for a few weeks ) – my husband actually had to come to the Doctors Surgery with me. To help me talk to her.

NB. I want to make 2 important points here :

a) I am not angry because I just wanted to have lots of time off work.  Then give it up forever.  Then live on State Benefits. And that my GP somehow stopped me dong this. But it would have helped me so much if I had been treated seriously and shown some respect by GPs.  Because I am certain that if people are forced into struggling on for a long period of years (as I was) then the illness/condition becomes more ingrained. And so much more difficult to get rid of.

b) With regard to state financial help – I wouldn’t have wanted, asked or chosen to live on benefits.  But I fully understand that many have to do so because they have no choice, and are own their own. But to have received some financial help would have been good. I mean people get child benefit (previously totally un-means tested).  And having children is a choice – having CFS or ME isn’t.

4) Now a Landlady – since 2004.
This is hard too and is eating up most of my life just now. Because my CFS has got worse over the last few years. So makes it harder than it should be.
I “got into Property” in 2004 as was no longer employable. It had to be something where I wasn’t answerable to anyone and could do my own hours.
I took a big risk (financially) to start this up. I didn’t have any money other than some savings. Never had any inheritances, or gifts, or lottery wins.
I just borrowed and kept on borrowing . . . !  Including re-mortgaging the house – with my husband’s agreement of course.
It was designed to be long-term – and will be very long-term now. Keeping it all afloat throughout the last few years (since the credit crunch and recession started in 2008) must be one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Unlike GPs and other medical people I have no guaranteed salary at the end of each month. Sometimes a loss. And I just have to work the hours it takes.

NB.  My point here is not meant to be “Oh woe is me” or “I never knew it would be this hard”  . . . etc etc.  It is simply that I am working very hard – but am still treated dismissively at my GP surgery.   It seems that no matter what you do, or say,  if you have CFS or ME noted on your files – you are deemed not worth bothering with.


But : why do I want to read this file, if it is going to make me even more angry ?

Because I have to.
I have to see the contents in black and white for myself.
I feel it will confirm I have not been over-sensitive all these years. In feeling I have been badly treated by people who are highly paid professionals. Who I had turned to and had relied upon to help me.
And it will prove that I have not been alone.  And have a very justifiable right to be angry.

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