Credit crunch: Hitting housing market.
As the credit crunch bites, home repossessions are likely to rise by 50% in the Midlands this year. A growing number of companies are offering a scheme designed to bail out struggling home-owners.
But what happens when the sale-and-rent-back companies can’t pay their own mortgages and their houses are repossessed by the bank?
Inside Out speaks to people who’re losing their homes when these companies go under.
Shirley needed help to keep her home.
In 2006, with her debts piling up fast, Shirley Hale’s home was at risk of being repossessed.
Desperate for help, Shirley looked to an advert in her local paper, which promoted Birmingham-based company 'Repossessions Stopped'.
The deal was simple: the company, run by Richard Dewsbery, would buy Shirley’s home from her and then allow her to rent the house back.
"He came and he liked what he saw… he said 'we can’t offer the £85,000 that you say it’s worth, but I can offer you the £60,000 and offer you a lifetime of living in it at £300 a month rent'. And I thought, that’s brilliant,” Shirley told Inside Out.
Unfortunately for Shirley, however, things didn’t turn out that way.
Less than a year after selling her home to 'Repossessions Stopped', the house she was now renting was repossessed anyway.
Her landlords hadn’t been paying the mortgage.
"It was like having your heart cut out, " she said:
"Even my divorce wasn’t as bad as having to walk out that door and close it for the last time."
Shirley isn’t alone.
Caroline Davey: action is needed.
Tip of the iceberg
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people are turning to businesses who offer this type of sell-to-rent-back scheme.
While the companies aren’t actually doing anything illegal, it’s feared some are taking advantage of people in desperate situations.
Caroline Davey, from the housing charity Shelter, fears it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
She told Inside Out: "People are going from being homeowner to homeless in matter of months. It’s an extremely distressing time… we need to do something about it."
The problem with Richard Dewsbery’s company was that it was buying properties it couldn’t afford.
When the credit crunch hit, Mr Dewsbery’s partnership with his wife went into administration and that left tenants facing eviction.
Extracts from Richard Dewsbery's statement
I want to begin this statement by saying it was never my intention to cause distress or upset to any of my tenants. I worked in the property business for a long time and am devastated that this situation has arisen.
Some properties have been bought by investors and there are other offers on the table for the remainder.
I have made, and am continuing to make every possible effort, working in conjunction with my professional advisors, to resolve the situation.
The company's reponse
In a statement to Inside Out, Mr Dewsbery and his wife both said they never promised customers lifetime security.
Shirley:It was like having your heart cut out.
They said their partnership got into financial difficulties because many tenants weren’t paying their rent.
The pair also said they’d made every effort to keep the business afloat and to keep people in their homes – and are devastated by what has happened.
But that’s of little comfort to Shirley Hale: "When I look at my old house it feels awful.
"It’s been sold, somebody else is moving in. I wish them all the luck in the world.
"I hope they’re happy there as I was. But it hurts. It still hurts. It hurts a great deal."
last updated: 11/08/2008 at 14:36