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Fighting a legal battle with very few resources

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Pie chart explained at  the end.


It feels like most of this year has been taken up trying to deal with 2 very big problems that have occurred as a consequence of my Bankruptcy. Which is dealing with legal and financial “debt” actions for bills and charges relating to one of the flats I used to rent out. In Motherwell.

Both the council for the area and the factors that manage the property want me to pay for things that have arisen or been charged after I went bankrupt in Sep 2014. This is why I referred to “debt” in inverted commas – as it is debts I haven’t run up myself. And no reasonable person would expect to be liable for these – as the properties had all been handed over to a Trustee In Bankruptcy in 2014.

My Trustee In Bankruptcy (say) they have repeatedly explained my situation to these 2 organisations (particularly the factors) over the last few years – ie, I am bankrupt, went bankrupt because of health, gave all assets away on becoming Bankrupt, have no income or savings now. And can hardly manage to deal with anything because of my health. Which is WHY I opted for Bankruptcy. Sorry, I know this is the 1000th time I‘ve mentioned this . . . . !

I have also made (been forced to make) some efforts at explaining all this myself to these organisations – usually in long emails. At great cost to my health every time, as even small exertions usually make me more ill. And can cause me to crash/relapse even further for days, weeks, etc.

Trying to think and type out an email will usually take me hours and is a very big exertion with my level of health and ability (or disability).

Again, this is why I went Bankrupt.

But these 2 particular organisations don’t care a jot about this. They seem determined to push on for their pound of flesh.

Some of this stuff I’ve probably written about in earlier posts – sorry about this. And for maybe repeating stuff.

But I desperately need to try and pour some of this out – as it is all keeping me very ill indeed. It feels like it has consumed most of this year. And it is consuming me. My physical health and my mental and emotional health too. Nightmares all the time, increasing this year – with all this worry.

Oh, and the Bankruptcy itself is still ongoing.

Still being administered.

Still dragging on.

Some other flats still to be sold.

So for me, being “discharged” from Bankruptcy in Sep 2015 has meant absolutely nothing. I have no idea what benefits there are from saying a person is discharged. Not that I expected any benefits as such – I just mean what is that actual point of the statement saying you are “discharged” when you were a landlord with various properties ? Because they don’t get disposed of overnight. And it is also pretty unlikely they will be disposed of within 12 months either. (By “disposed of”, I mean sold or repossessed.)

Given that one mortgage lender has taken almost 3 years to repossess an empty flat. A flat that was not tenanted, was unoccupied, ie. vacant – in Sep 2014. And well before that too I believe.

Yes, you read that correctly – 3 years . . . .

This of course, is the flat that has produced the bills I am now having to “fight” these legal and financial battles for.

I put “fight” in commas too, because I have so little ability to fight this.

As well as all the pages of physical symptoms I have with Severe ME, the awful cognitive dysfunction (AKA brain fog) prevents me being able to express myself or remember things when I most need to. Well, it causes problems for me all the time of course. Its very frustrating not to be able to remember stuff I have just read in a book, or having to re-read an email 5 times, or cannot digest something just heard on TV perhaps. It is miserable actually – but not essential in the way it will be in a court case.

The legal battle the firm of property factors are waging against me – is now in the 2nd part.

This firm (I will call them Apollo Property – not their real name) are suing me in 3 stages for factors bills, charges and “estimated” bills for communal maintenance/repairs. The total I think, adds up to somewhere between £9000 and £10000.

I think the reason they are doing it in 3 parts is so it comes under what is called the Simple Procedure in Scotland. It used to be called something like Small Claims. Either way, it is dealt with by the Sherriff Court. And I think the legal charges for the person bringing the action are cheaper than a normal court case. And the top limit for these types of cases I’m told are £5000.

So I am assuming that is why Apollo are doing it in this way.

It makes no difference to me really – as I have no funds with which to pay any of this. And would never have expected to be liable to pay these things. No reasonable person would surely ?

As I mentioned in this post, IF the flat had still been tenanted – the tenant’s rents would have been taken over by the Trustee. But I would still be liable to pay bills like these factors bills – from fresh air .

No reasonable person would expect this to be the position.

And I still don’t know for sure if this actually IS the legal position.

The previous solicitor I had requested to send or email me the specific legislation relating to this, ie. The Act and section, paragraph etc, where this is stated and detailed. So I could read it myself – as it seems so unbelievable.

He hasn’t replied.

But then he has been paid. (You have to pay the legal fees in advance and ongoing for this type of legal assistance. You do not get a bill at the end.)

 

For this 2 nd Stage – Apollo are claiming approx £5000.

For “estimated” bills for communal repairs and maintenance.

I don’t understand how it can be estimated – you would think they must know what they have paid out exactly ?

And is legal detail not meant to be accurate and specific ? I thought that the whole essence of legal stuff was the preciseness of the detail ?

So I am baffled by this.

 

Ironically, the whole communal area where this flat in Motherwell is located had, as I understood, been allowed to go downhill. And this was probably a result of the previous factors failing to carry out any maintenance or repairs over a period of a few years. (They eventually went into Administration and the current factors Apollo took over.) And of course, this would be why the letting agent I used said they just couldn’t get any decent tenants for the flat. And it had sat empty for quite some time before 2014.

No landlord would just choose to have a property sitting empty. Just saying . . .

At this particular scheme where my flat was – there are 3 small blocks of flats. Each with 11 flats in them.

They would all have needed similar work to mine I am pretty sure. So anything I am being charge for can be multiplied by 11 for definite. And then by 3,  as 3 blocks.

Very recently it also came to light these factors Apollo are also charging the mortgage lender a sum of £16280 which they want paid to them from the sale of the flat.

(The lender finally repossessed it in March this year, and it was sold in July. )

The only detail Apollo seem to have given the bank’s solicitors is vague descriptions like “essential maintenance” and “charges”.

So that means the total of these repairs for my flat = £5000 + £16280

= £21280

And for the full block (as communal works)

X 11 flats = £234,080

And for the scheme of 3 blocks :

An absolutely whopping £702,240 . . . . !!

These figures seem astronomical.

I didn’t mean to type so much detail and make this into such a long post. But my head is spinning with all of this . . . .

And how to fight it with so little energy.

 

The pie chart in the picture at the top is a screen shot I took from an app called ME/CFS App. I try to record my daily energy use on it – in the hope of it helping me in the future. Or maybe as a visual aid perhaps to show a GP of how my life is.

I’ve been doing this off and on for a few years.

The dark blue is the amount of time I am either sleeping – or completely disabled.

Possibly resting or recovering from doing stuff, but certainly unable to “do” anything at all. Not even listen to soft music, certainly not read.

Just totally non-functional.

And this is at least 80% of my life.

Probably more actually – as you fill in the areas of “activity” in 30 min boxes. Nearly everything is a high or medium energy activity for me. A low energy activity may be listening to meditation music lying down. Or maybe eating food.

A simple text message might take me 20 mins to type out – but I would probably fill a 30 mins box for this on the App. So I tend to overstate my time being active.

I imagine my actual level of functioning is around 10 % .

Which is a pretty shit life – lets be honest.

10% is the figure the App keeps telling me is my baseline. I don’t even know what “baseline” means, as haven’t had enough spare energy to read all the instructions in 2 or 3 years.

So anyway – I’m trying to fight this legal battle with Apollo Factors while being functional only 10% of the time.

Not to mention the firm of Debt Collectors now employed by the Council for Motherwell as well.

I don’t feel very hopeful.

But its good to vent . . . .

And if the sheer effort of typing all this gets some of this horror out of my head, and reduces the number of nights a week I have exhausting nightmares – then it has been worthwhile for me.

Sorry its such a long read.

 

 

 

 

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What the world doesn’t see . . .

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This photo struck me as being a good visual descriptor of so many people’s lives when they have ME/CFS.

It certainly is for mine.

So much of our lives are not seen by the rest of the world.  Maybe not by anyone at all, unless we live with a partner or family. So much is hidden and out of sight from friends, relatives, acquaintances.  Not intentionally,  but just the way it is.
The times we do manage to get out and see a friend, or go out somewhere with our partner, can be few and far between.
These are occasions where we have managed to reach the “tips of our icebergs”.

What the world doesn’t see is the struggle the rest of the time. Our lives behind the scenes. Or the bulk of our iceberg that is usually beneath water.

Some examples from my day to day life :

Being so exhausted after a shower or bath that I was unable to go out.
Or do anything.

Having to eat my dinner in bed. Sometimes in a lying down position if unable to sit up. (Not ideal for digestion I wouldn’t think. )

Usually needing a seat with a high back to support my shoulders, neck and back of my head.
Without this I often wouldn’t manage to remain sitting upright for very long. As neck pain would set in. It often feels like my head is too heavy for my neck to support.
Maybe I have a very big brain . . .

Having to buy clothes that will not need ironing.

Actually buying clothes is only done rarely because of the massive difficulty with it.
(This would need another blog post to explain to non-sufferers.)

Same with going to the hairdressers.
I managed recently to get my hair cut and coloured.
This was the first time in over 3 years.

Washing clothes/laundry – but the stuff lying in the washing machine for 3 days until I have enough strength and energy to take it out.

The struggle just to fill in a simple form, and the mental exhaustion afterwards.
eg.
Filling in a Dvla form for a new driving licence recently took me ages. I had mislaid my licence ages ago. But have now moved house also. From the guidance notes I couldn’t decide if a fee was required or not.
Should have been simple but this took over 2 hours to do.
Because of brain fog and headaches.
(and No – I couldn’t phone to ask. See next point.)

Phone calls are almost impossible most of the time.
Unless there is no queue, no more than 2 options to select from, and just very quiet soft music while holding on.
Even on “good energy” days, the brain fog and headaches make this simple task incredibly difficult.

The internet and using my laptop or tablet are torture a lot of the time. (And my mobile.)
Because of hyper-sensitivity to them. Headaches get triggered almost immediately. Brain fog gets worse. And some days it feels like my whole nervous system goes into overdrive.

Doing a simple Asda shopping online yesterday was agony.
Should have been simple. I had made the list the night before. But it took ages.
And triggered off so many symptoms that I was in bed the rest of the day recovering.

Keeping in touch with people is hard when I often can’t manage to type an email, make a phone call, or write a letter or card.
Or I manage to do it – but pay for it with nasty after-effects (exhaustion, headaches, even worse brain fog, etc).
Even text messages can be hard to do as I can’t tolerate using my mobile at times.

Reading a book.
Another simple task most people take for granted.
But I’m very limited in being able to do this. For lots of reasons.
Brain fog – this causes so many problems. Have to keep re-reading stuff as memory is awful. Or I just can’t take in what I’m reading.
Lack of strength in arms – makes actually holding a book too hard some days.
Headaches – often as soon as I try to concentrate.
Hyper-sensitivity to reading a Kindle download on my tablet.
A neighbour loaned me a book when I first moved here.
It took me 11 months to read it . . .

This list could go on and on and on.
But that would be very boring. And you get the picture.

But I guess the 2 hardest things about day to day life for me are :

1) Having to choose between small things because you can’t do both.
eg. Put grocery shopping away OR have a shower.
eg. Make a phone call to pay a bill OR send a text message to a friend.

and

2) The length of time it takes to recover from doing things.
To be stuck in bed all day recovering from just doing an online grocery shopping is pretty grim.

But this stuff (struggle) varies from day to day and week to week. It doesn’t move in a straight line. Up or down.
And while this does make it almost impossible to monitor and control – it still gives me hope that things will improve in time.

I mean, if something varies then it can surely improve in time ?
And more of my iceberg will move up above water . . . .

My Life so far – NOT what I expected

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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.

I Wish . . . .

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I WISH FOR :

To be walking on a beach, feeling the warm sand under my bare feet
To feel the sunshine on my face
To be near to water, looking out at a huge ocean, all the greeny blue water
To see the calmness of the hills, their stability
To swim in the sea, or even just walk in it and feel the water around my legs
To sit outdoors and lean against a big solid tree, eating a sandwich, looking up at the sky

To sit on a balcony early evening, looking out at a view of water and hills. And faraway houses.
Maybe with a nice glass of chilled wine
To feel the warm evening air flowing thru my loose hair
To eat a seafood salad in an outdoors cafe, perhaps looking onto a quiet beach
To be able to read a good book and just lose myself in the story
To listen to calming beautiful music

To be very far away from all worries, all insecurities, all fears about the future.
Just for a while  . . . .
Not asking for a perfect life – but just for some things to get a little easier.

Bankruptcy for me has been absolutely no relief whatsoever. It has been brutal.

It has replaced some stresses with different stresses and worries which seem to be keeping me quite unwell. And I suspect the sheer trauma and impact of it all may have made some of my symptoms even worse,
eg, severe brain fog (aka cognitive dysfunction or brain dysfunction)
headaches, and hyper-sensitivity to things like noise, light, using laptop, mobile, watching TV, even listening to music

Hey Ho, nobody said life would be easy . . . .

I crave the company of people who are :

gentle
calm
kind
have empathy and compassion for others
understanding
non-judgemental
are willing to learn, to listen
have varied interests
have a good sense of humour
don,t have rigid black and white opinions
have had life experience which has given them an open mind

I need to avoid people who are :

ignorant and unwilling to learn
abrupt
sarcastic
(sarcasm when aimed unfairly at me is absolutely lethal for my ME, an instant trigger for all my symptoms escalating)
people who make fun of, or laugh at, others’ limitations, or problems
people who make jokes about things that are not at all funny
people who know what upsets me, and my weaknesses, and take pleasure in “pushing my buttons”
(it always works – and I get upset every single time)
have rigid, unbending opinions
who get bored easily – there is so much in life to experience (how can people get bored . . . ?)

But I guess we would all like these things . . . !

Gratitude 6 : Red Roses

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A short post – as recovering from a rather bad week.
But I’m not going to write about that.

Instead, here is a photo of some lovely flowers from my neighbour. This was so thoughtful.
Aren’t they beautiful ?
Such a deep vivid shade of red.

How nice it was to water them this morning and take delight in how they have bloomed.
Isn’t nature amazing . . . . ?

Gratitude 5 : Newlands Park

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Had a walk in a lovely park the other day. In Glasgow’s south-side.
Its called Newlands Park and is a lovely smallish park. With lots of interesting areas and plenty benches to sit on. It was quiet with just a few people walking their dogs.
It was just heaven – breathing in the fresh air, enjoying all the greenery and some flowers out, and listening to the birds tweeting.
Just heaven.
I need more of this for sure . . . .

Grareful to have such a nice park close to home.

Gratitude 4 : Bagels made by Hubby

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Grateful for – Bagels with cheese and ham, with some cucumber and baby tomatoes. Made by my husband.
And a cup of tea.

Had this for breakfast this morning. And really really enjoyed them, especially as I’d eaten nothing since yesterday afternoon.
Was starving . . . !

Reason for this was bad headaches resulted in me getting into bed early evening. With painkillers. And the plan (ie. hope) that a couple of hours lying down, comfy with eye patches on would do the trick.
It did – eventually.
But I was feeling exhausted after just printing 6 emails off in the afternoon. I find it too hard to read things some days unless its in print form. But just looking at the laptop screen for too long, plus the noisy printer triggered off the dammed headaches. Anyway I ended having to stay in bed right thru to this morning.
Hence no dinner last night.

But don’t want to dwell on that.

My point is that I’m always so grateful for my hubby making these bagels for me. (Although they’re meant for my lunch, not breakfast.)
He always makes them the night before while making his lunch rolls for work. He has been doing this for so long now he kindof does it on autopilot.
And I’m very grateful for it . . .

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