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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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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 2nd 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 – The Bankruptcy Stuff Keeps Getting worse.

And this one – A Long Slow Road. (This is quite a long post about various things. The comments about Bankruptcy are in the 2nd section.)

And this one – Unwanted Visitors.

And this one – My Life So Far – Not What I Expected.

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 (once things stopped getting paid),  phone calls, etc,  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 from Feb 2013 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 to settle the factors 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 because 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 some accommodations could be made if needed.

I 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.

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