‘Prospective home buyer is bullying me into paying £1.7k mortgage fine’
Dear Katie Dear Katie
QMy partner and I had to move house as a result of him getting a new job in a different city, so we looked into renting out the flat we bought together in 2020. However, the interest rates on offer for buy-tolet mortgages were so high that we decided it was unfeasible to become landlords. So we put our flat on the market. We had an offer for £ 230,000, which we accepted, but the buyer said she needed to move in immediately and rent from us ahead of our mortgage term coming to an end on Dec 31, at which point we would be able to complete the sale. We reluctantly agreed to this, even though some of our friends warned us it was a bad idea. Our mortgage lender, Halifax, has said there is absolutely zero flexibility around this end date of Dec 31. However, the tenant is now saying she wants the sale to complete on Nov 26, which is exactly three years after the mortgage commenced. She is threatening to pull out of the sale if she doesn’t get what she wants, which is causing me sleepless nights. If we do it her way, we will pay a mortgage exit fee of £1,733, which is 2pc of the total value of our loan. She knows this, but still insists this is what she wants to happen because she doesn’t want to pay me an extra month’s rent. – Anon Dear Reader AYou are caught in the middle of an inflexible mortgage lender and a difficult sounding tenant who is desperate to stop paying you rent and crack on with the purchase. You say you feel bullied by her, so I asked you whether she was on a rental contract, or whether the agreement was informal. She was on a so- called “license to occupy” contract, you said, which had been drawn up by your solicitor. This is a very different arrangement to a tenancy agreement, in which she would have been tied in by a break clause or minimum notice period. So, unfortunately, owing to the fact that she could just up and leave, it meant she was able to call the shots somewhat by making threats. Meanwhile, you also felt aggrieved at Halifax, which you say was happy to offer flexibility over the start date of the mortgage when you first bought the flat, because of the unpredictability of the purchase. However, it has not been prepared to offer any flexibility at the end of the three- year term, when the sale is equally unpredictable, which you feel is a bit rich. You don’t see why you should be the one to foot the £1,733 bill while Halifax and this tenant get their own way, and I can see why. Despite there being little I could do about the tenant’s demands, I said I was prepared to ask Halifax whether you could pay your final mortgage instalment 35 days early, so as to avoid the exit penalty. Although your terms and conditions state that your contract ends on Dec 31, I wondered if Halifax might make an exception because it did not stand to lose financially and you were extremely close to the end of your term. But I’m afraid that even after my involvement, Halifax stuck to its guns. A Halifax spokesman said: “The details of the mortgage offer will have been walked through with the customers by the broker when it was taken out, to ensure they understood and were Qcomfortable with all the information.” Although this does feel like quite a mean move from Halifax, it is unfortunately within its rights to refuse to drop the charge, owing to the terms of your policy. I gave you the bad news and you decided you would go ahead with the sale on Nov 26, meaning you will pay the £1,733 exit penalty. My husband and I rent a three You said you felt it was better to bedroom semi but we are in the take the hit as the tenant was paying the process of being made homeless asking price for the flat, which you after a Section 21 notice was shoved might not achieve again if you put it through our door by an estate agent. Our back on the market at this stage. Also, landlord wants the house back so that he you just want this stressful saga to be can to live in it with his pregnant wife. over, so you can move on with life in Because of the economic situation, your new city. the state of the rental sector and our I’m sorry it worked out this way, but need to remain living locally owing to if nothing else, your story is certainly a caring for an elderly, frail relative, we cautionary tale for anyone thinking of have been unable to find alternative letting a prospective home buyer rent accommodation. We are low priority for their property before selling it to them. a council house, although we are on the House purchases do have a funny habit waiting list. Last week, I advised BT of of bringing out the worst in people. * our situation, explaining that as a result of being made homeless I would have to cancel my phone and broadband contract, as I was unable to transfer it to another property. The first person I spoke to was very sympathetic and said he would talk to the manager to try to have the £561 penalty removed for ending the contract early. But the manager refused. I emailed Philip Jansen, BT’s chief executive, and someone working in his team replied saying she would pass our details to the customer complaints department. The following day someone called Wayne phoned to say he would look into the situation. He phoned back a few hours later to tell me that the charge was being cancelled. The whole situation was resolved within 48 hours of my email and Wayne was friendly, professional and sympathetic. To put the £561 into context, it will cover six weeks’ payment for the self-storage where we are having to store all our possessions while we stay in my son’s spare bedroom until our fortunes improve. I am immensely grateful to the chief executive’s office, and Wayne from customer complaints. – LE, Southampton Dear Reader AI was so sorry to hear of your housing situation, which has arisen through no fault of your own. You and your husband work parttime as you also care for your elderly mother-in-law who has dementia. You are a freelance physiotherapist and earn around £ 13,000 a year through this, pension income and attendance allowance. Although rents in the area have gone up, you say the major barrier to you finding somewhere else to rent is the £60,000 minimum income agents in your area now like tenants – or their guarantors – to earn. You fall well below this and are therefore being constantly rejected when you apply. You are right when you say your situation is fallout from the dreadful state of the rental market at the moment, which needs urgently fixing. You will stay with a friend temporarily, you say, and I really hope you’re able to find somewhere permanent soon. As for BT, I’m pleased to hear they have made allowances here, even if it was after you escalated the situation to the chief executive office. It just goes to show how companies are capable of doing the right thing by their customers, instead of hiding selfishly behind rigid terms and conditions. Your case is a model example of how to complain to a company and achieve fair treatment, fast. Others looking to replicate what you have done can find chief executive details online on the company’s own website, or at ceoemail.com. They are also free to copy me into emails, so companies know I am watching. However, thanks to your quick thinking, there is nothing for me to do here other than forward your praise on to BT. I hope it will give its employee, Wayne, a hearty pat on the back, at the very least.