At wits end
St John woman battles to save her home
Maria Bascombe is at the end of her line when it comes to saving her home.
She says, through no fault of her own, the three-bedroom wall house at Lemon Arbor, St John where she grew up is up for auction.
“I don’t want to go home from work one afternoon and find the locks on my doors are changed and I can’t get in. I have nowhere to go, but I don’t know what to do.”
The trouble started ten years ago when her elder brother died and she discovered that he had not paid a substantial bank loan. The house was used as collateral to secure the loan.
“Our parents left their possessions to both of us [in] equal shares. He was entitled to half and I am entitled to half. I was 19 years at the time and he was in his 30s. He came to me and told me he wanted to borrow some money from the bank so that he could fix up the house. This loan was a favour that was done for him through his friend who used to work at the bank. I remember the loan officer brought the papers to the house one afternoon and my brother told me to sign them quickly because the guy had to leave. He was my guardian so I signed the papers not expecting or even knowing what could have resulted.”
After her brother’s death, the bank informed Bascombe she would have to take responsibility for the outstanding debt, and she did, paying the sum of one thousand dollars per month between 2004 and 2012.
The strain was heavy on the young woman’s meagre income and she began to fall behind in payments. She then made attempts to secure a new arrangement from the bank but was rejected.
“I didn’t get anywhere. I tried to refinance the loan with the bank at the time but they said my salary couldn’t cover it, so my boyfriend and I at the time combined our salaries and approached the bank but again they turned down the application. I tried other places and I was declined.”
With nowhere to turn, Bascombe decided to seek legal help and after hiring as many as six lawyers, she was left alone in her predicament.
“I have moved from lawyer to lawyer, none of them worked through the case. I have had a lawyer who constantly could not find my file so I moved on. The next lawyer set up a meeting with another financial institution, I provided all the information but after a lengthy wait, the loans officer would only tell me several times I would have to wait for the approval of the financial manager. When I finally contacted the financial manager for myself, he told me he never once saw my file.”
In December 2012, with the balance on the loan at $133,640.32, Bascombe received a letter from the bank instructing her that it had come with a compromise settlement of $60,000 dollars and she had three months to find the money or it would proceed to sell the property.
She was unable to come up with the money because she could not secure a loan.
Months later she received notification from the bank that the house would be auctioned.
Notices have since appeared in the newspaper for the last three years.
“I am at a loss. I don’t know whether it will be sold, whether it will be auctioned, I don’t know what to do and I have nowhere else to go. I admit I have not contacted the bank since last year but what do I do? Every other financial institution has turned me down.
“But this is not my fault. I did not take out the loan. If my brother had done the right thing and the loan officer had followed the correct procedure with him we wouldn’t be here. But you can’t go back now, but what can I do?”
Even more worrying for Maria is the fact that she was instructed by one of her former lawyers that she would have to pay her brother’s two children half of the value of the property.
While she insists she is willing to give her family their just due, she laments that she will be out of pocket even more since she would have to pay them as well as the outstanding bank loan.
“They are entitled, I have no problem with that. But all the parties involved met with a lawyer and he advised us to each pay a portion of the loan since the property would be divided equally, but nobody stepped forward. I am the only one to foot the bill. It’s not fair.
“It is not my fault that my brother was delinquent in repaying the loan. It had nothing do with me. Whatever money my brother got, I don’t know what he did with it but no repairs were ever made to the house. When our mother died 27 years ago, she owed nobody for the property. When he died I paid all his funeral expenses on my own. Now I am left like this. He was my brother but I never expected this.”
Maria is appealing for help but insists she is not looking for handouts.
“I am willing to work with anybody who is willing to work with me. Money is very tight, but I would try my best. I have been trying,” she said as she showed Barbados TODAY receipts of loan payments between 2004
“I just want to keep my home.”