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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.

Battered, Bruised and Bankrupt

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Voluntary Bankruptcy

This was the biggest and most life changing event which dominated most of last year.
And is still going on now.
I became voluntarily bankrupt w.e.f September 2014.
Or “in Sequestration” to use the correct scottish term,

I had to make this hard decision because my health was so poor. It had been steadily getting worse over the last few years and I was living a “non-life” really. In bed most of the time (maybe 80% or 90% of the time) struggling with all the horrible ME symptoms (an ever lengthening list). And at the same time trying to keep the property stuff afloat – mainly from bed. With my mobile phone for texts, emails, internet banking. And of course – actual phone calls. But phone calls had to be kept to an absolute minimum as I was too ill most of the time to carry out a business type phone call, or remember accurately what had been said . I relied mostly on emails as I could take breaks in a way you can’t in the middle of a phone call. Plus I needed a written record of almost everything – as my brain fog was severe.

But this was in no way ideal. You can’t deal with everyone purely by email or text. Plus a simple email that should take maybe 20 mins would often take me 4 hours to type. And that could often take me a day or two to recover from the exertion of doing even that.

My “PEM” or “PENE” (post exertional malaise / post exertional neuro exhaustion) has been severe and punishing.

Sometimes I would manage out of bed and get to my desk in my dressing gown and slippers. Looking like an unwashed wreck. Often I had to choose between washing/showering and getting any work done.
Almost every small bit of energy I could muster up had to go on work/property stuff. But over the last few years, I had built up a massive backlog of stuff that I would never have gotten on top of.

In the end I had to choose between my health and my ME getting even worse – or giving everything up.
When I write it like this, I can see there really was no choice.
But I went thru a lot of mental agony and anguish before deciding. Even started to have panic attacks at one point.

Doing this stuff had been my life for the last 11 years.
And I had struggled on for a very long time – because you can’t just get rid of 15 flats overnight. And I knew the consequences of “giving up” would be awful.
It wasn’t like resigning from my career in insurance in 1997 because of my health, after almost 20 years with the same employer. And walking away with nothing. And that door just closes behind you.
That was simple compared to this.

This has been terrible, and caused my health to go even further downhill. Which was one of my fears about doing it.
But it had to be done – and it was done to give myself a decent chance to improve again in the future.

When everything is more settled, and I get to a stage where I have some peace of mind.
I feel sure I can start to improve then.

I’ll probably write more about this in later posts.
As it has been traumatic, and I do need to get stuff out.

 

Moved house

For 2 reasons :

1) I wasn’t managing in our home very well any longer.
It was a semi-detached house with stairs (obviously). The stairs were hard. I could manage them some days – but with bad exhaustion after. Other days I couldn’t manage at all. My bedroom had been moved into a downstairs room some time ago – but the bathroom was still upstairs. (Had a downstairs loo, thank goodness.) My office was also upstairs (and I was hardly managing into it). The kitchen was too far away from the bedroom and living room for me. And when I did get into it, I often couldn’t stay in it for more than a few minutes at a time – as there was nowhere to sit down. And various windows throughout the house (incl my bedroom) I was unable to open – which would drive me mad.
It had a garden of course, but I rarely managed to get out in it over the last year or two. Any “good” days were spent trying to work and keep everything afloat. Not every one of course, but most of them.

2) The other reason was that we knew we would later voluntarily hand over our house to the Trustee In Bankruptcy. It would have been “taken” off us anyway. We had lived in it since 1998 and there was plenty of equity in it. So we knew it would be sold off to take the equity.
It has just gone onto Rightmove for sale this week. And it looks so sad and empty.

A house move is a stressful event anytime.
We moved well in advance of the bankruptcy taking effect. I actually moved into the flat before my husband at the end of May 2014. As I was desperate to get away from the house, its stairs, and all the other problems.

But as anyone with ME will know – a house move takes a huge toll on your health. Even when it’s a happy house move.
But in these circumstances . . .
I’m just glad its over – and I pray that we don’t have to do it again.

 

Had to change Banks – twice

How would I describe doing this (with ME) ?
Complete bloody torture . . .
The 1st change was recommended by the financial advisor and done ages before the bankruptcy. Bank manager clearly informed of probable future bankruptcy therefore ensuring everything done properly.
It took me months to get all the direct debits set up again – as I can hardly manage to tolerate using the laptop, or phone, etc with my ME being so bad.

Everything was just getting settled and running fine – then the bank decided that they were freezing and closing down all accounts (nationwide) for any bankrupt people. No notice was given at all. It just happened instantly.
This threw us into chaos.
Husband’s salary had just been paid in a week before this happened and we couldn’t get it back out. Well, we did eventually. But with a lot of hassle.
And trying to get a new current account once you have actually become bankrupt is very difficult. (No surprise really.) Most banks don’t want to know, and I actually thought we weren’t going to be able to open one at all at one point.
It was chaos, and mega stressful with ME.
Because you can’t pay many things without a bank account. And, as already mentioned, I am very limited in even being able to make phone calls. Or use the internet. And physically going out to places to try and pay things in cash was totally beyond me. (Still is most of the time.)
We now have a new account up and running (thank god).
But almost everything (DDs etc) have still to be set up all over again.

Not easy . . .

 

Homeopathic Hospital (or Centre Of Integrative Care)

Had a 5 day in-patient stay in January 2014.
This was a huge disappointment and actually resulted in my condition getting even worse afterwards. Especially when I read the doctor’s report a few weeks later.
There were many good things about the stay – I must add this.
Eg, the company of the other patients, getting good food at a regular time, the garden view from my bed (and got out into it twice), some of the meditation classes, a marvellous massage (called a Bowen Therapy massage), a great adjustable bed, a chair in the shower area to sit down on.
But there also a lot of odd, weird things that I tried to ignore and block out while I was there. This was hard work to do mentally, as a lot of things didn‘t “feel“ right.
But I didn’t speak up while there.
Partly because too exhausted – the whole effort of getting organised and getting there had taken its toll. And my husband was ill too and I was worried about him.
And the brain fog doesn’t make it easy to think clearly or express yourself when needed.
The other thing was – I didn’t want to be labelled as being “over-anxious” or having a “depressive/negative mood”. So I just kept quiet about things I was concerned or confused about.
But when I read the doctor’s (fairly short) report later – I was horrified. Angry, upset and despairing at what a waste of time and energy (mine) it had turned out to be.
Most of my symptoms had been ignored. And I reckoned about 80% of what I had said (or tried to say) had been dismissed or ignored. Or I hadn’t been allowed to talk about some symptoms.
Looking back – the total time the ward doctor spent with me was maybe 45 mins on the 1st day. Out of a 5 day stay. For 25 years of illness . . .
And a list of symptoms that was getting longer and longer. And more severe.
I had been so “grateful” and “positive” and “upbeat” while I was there. And on the last day, And even when I was just home.

But it all knocked the stuffing out of me.

I tried to reason with myself that I maybe had been expecting too much. But I just expected a doctor/doctors who had some knowledge and understanding of ME/CFS. Then I used up even more energy trying to go back over how it had gone so wrong, why had I not been able to make myself understood, did I not speak clearly enough, had I been speaking too fast (trying to get 25 years of history out remember), etc etc etc.

But it was damaging.

 

Have no GP now

Well, that’s not totally correct. But as good as.
The combination of having moved house to a different post code (although I’m actually closer to the surgery now), and the fact I haven’t been able to get into to surgery since 2011, means that I was told in October 2014 that I had to find a new GP.

I’m still reeling from the phone call that day.

A GP that I had never met or even spoken to before phoned me after my husband went into the surgery before going to work that morning. To ask for better (any) painkillers for me. My headaches have been very bad the last few years (mentioned while in the Homeopathic Hospital, but not taken seriously). And I had been awake most of the night actually crying with the pain. One of the worst nights ever, pain-wise.
The GP who phoned was abrupt and aggressive, wouldn’t let me speak, and I’m not sure she even understood what I was trying to say part of the time. She had a foreign accent.

She used phrases like :

“What’s wrong with you – are you housebound or something ?“
(Re why I haven‘t got to the surgery since 2011)

“We only do home visits for elderly people or people who cannot walk”.
(I didn’t want a home visit – just some effective medication.)

“If we come out to visit you and find out you CAN walk – we will be very angry with you.”
(I didn’t want a home visit but I was speechless at this.)

“I am noting your records now that you are not to be given any more prescriptions.”
(She talked to me like I had done something wrong. And was therefore punishing me.)

“There’s no rush – just within the next few days.”
(Telling me I had to change to another GP surgery – despite me trying to explain I hardly managed out, or even to make phone calls most of the time.)

And it went on and on.

I was in tears (of frustration) after it. And my heart rate felt like it was thru the roof for days later.
I have been with that surgery since 1987 and l don’t think I’ve had a home visit (or even asked for one ) in all those years.

 

Asked 2 ME Charities for help in finding a new “ME/CFS friendly GP”

1) Most recently (a few months ago) :
Paid £20 to join one and used a lot of time and energy emailing their advocacy worker. To explain in detail how limited I am and why I was asking for their help with the GP issue.
She was very nice, but explained she had a big backlog of people with ME needing help. And couldn’t really spend any time with me at this point in time.
She did mention one GP but I don’t think the practice is going to be suitable for other reasons. Even if he still works there, which she wasn’t sure of. And I would still have be a lot more well than I am just now to be able to make enquiries, or go there.

2) A few years ago :
The other charity (or maybe its more of a support group) – I used to be a member of years ago. But only managed to go to 2 or 3 meetings.
Anyway, I asked if I could pay the annual membership and rejoin. And explained my main need was for help finding a decent GP.
(This has been a big problem for me for years.)
I had hoped that somebody/anybody could just give me a recommendation for a decent one. I got an email reply just suggesting I come along to their next meeting – although I had tried to explain how limited I was, and rely mainly on email. I emailed back a few times asking could I pay their membership and rejoin anyway – but they just stopped replying.
So I gave up.

 

Car broken down at end of road – 5 weeks ago

I went into bankruptcy for health reasons.
To relinquish all the properties, and all the work and responsibility that went with them. And all the dealings with Letting Agents, Tenants, Banks, Mortgage Lenders, Tradesmen, Factors, Insurance Companies, etc etc etc.

It wasn’t so much for financial reasons – although debts had certainly built up over the last few years with me not being able to deal with things well, or quickly enough. I was making losses and haemorrhaging money.
But before the process started, everything was getting paid ok and nothing was in arrears. But it was a struggle trying to juggle it all.
Our assets well exceeded any debts – on paper anyway.
After the process we are left with almost nothing.
The Trustee is allowing us to keep this one flat to live in – mainly because it has a big mortgage on it and no equity in it.
But any life assurance and mortgage endowments were taken off us and cashed in.

But – the one bonus for us was they allowed us to keep our beloved BMW.
Only because it is so old – it is a Y registration. Which is roughly 15 years old I think. And it is probably worth less than £1000.
I have always loved this car.
It is the most reliable car we have ever had – and it looks good. And is so comfortable and secure to drive (when I’m able to.)
I was forever boring people with how reliable is has been.

5 weeks ago it broke down at the end of the street . . . .

A major suspension issue – involving a lot of labour time to fix (as well as an expensive part). To have it fixed by a BMW dealer or even a smaller garage would be unaffordable. The repair would cost more than the value of the car itself.
However, we are lucky that a friend of husband’s is working on it. Which will be much cheaper. But its a very slow process as he can only do bits at the weekends. In daylight. And the weather hasn’t helped.
But it will get fixed – eventually

 

– – – – – – – – – –

 

This blog post has taken me ages to write. I changed it so much. And didn‘t want it to be so long – but felt the need to get all this out.

And it will be the first that most people in my real life will learn about the Bankruptcy.
I have only managed to tell a very small number of people. Mainly because my health has been so bad and I have hardly managed to see anyone.
(And it’s not really suitable for a text message . . . )

I’ll probably write more about much of this stuff in future posts.
I’m desperate to be writing again.
It is a struggle as I’m still feeling quite unwell much of the time. And just trying to think and concentrate is exhausting. And using my laptop feels like torture some days.

Doing this post will no doubt wipe me out for days. I feel totally wrecked after doing it.
But in this case, it will be worth it.
The more I can pour all this stuff out (onto this Blog) – the more it is out of my head. And creates “headroom” for better stuff.

That‘s the plan anyway . . .

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