The bank has not taken repayments on my mortgage


Q&A:I have a mortgage with Ulster Bank that was taken out to finance the building of my home. To give you some idea of how far back it dates, it was in punts.

The bank has never taken any repayments on the mortgage even though I have approached my local branch – where I originally got the mortgage – several times. They consistently assure me they will contact me to sort things out but I hear nothing more.

I’m not sure what I should do at this stage. I am happy to pay the mortgage (the payments were originally due to be monthly) but do not want to be penalised for what I feel is the bank’s failure. What should I do?

Mr KH, Kerry

No doubt the bank will be outraged that you didn’t make greater efforts to organise repayments on this loan but this is fundamentally Ulster Bank’s own problem.

Clearly, a mortgage loan is a contract binding on both sides. The bank agrees to give the loan and you consent to make the agreed repayments. The issue here appears to be that no one ever let you know what those payments should be or put in place any arrangement to deduct them from your account.

Having said that, you now have a problem. Although you tell me (in your longer communication) that the local branch does not seem to be able to find any paperwork for this loan, it clearly was paid to you via your legal representative at the outset.

That means Ulster Bank is holding title to the property as security (which I gather you have confirmed) and you cannot sell the property should you wish to, or even pass it on in a will.

Effectively, you are in limbo. You accept your obligation to repay the loan but, despite several efforts, have been unsuccessful in persuading your local Ulster Bank branch to put in place the necessary arrangements.

I believe you are quite correct to be concerned about your position at this stage – and about the performance of your local branch.

In the first place, I think you should move beyond the branch. I spoke to Ulster Bank and they are keen to get one of their head office mortgage people to talk to you, although they were unwilling, or unable, to outline to me a process that customers in such a position should follow under any consumer charter.

Before meeting anyone higher up in the bank, you need to clarify the precise details of the mortgage transfer in the first place with your solicitor.

You should certainly insist on all further communications being in writing – if necessary, following up phone calls with a written précis of the conversation. Deal only with people who provide a name, position and contact details – no call centres.

If you incur costs, such as in verifying with an independent financial adviser the bank’s estimate of fair interest owing, that cost should be deducted from your bill. In any case, I would advise you to press for a discount on any bill as the bank is essentially going to get paid for what is, from its point of view, a “phantom mortgage”.

What does a single, retired person gain from paying PRSI?

I have been a retired teacher for two years. I have paid PRSI contributions for 40 years of my working life at a reduced rate of public service. Now that I am retired, I am aware of colleagues who receive widow’s pensions in addition to their teacher pension. I am a single person and I wonder what benefit I would ever gain in relation to these contributions over the years. Surely, at some stage, an allowance in my old age – such as benefit of a carer – will be due to me. I never needed to obtain welfare benefit – for example, rent allowance – but I wonder just what I paid for? Is this discrimination against single people?

Ms MD, Meath

Public servants paying PRSI at the reduced rate on a final-increment secondary teacher’s salary of about €60,000 would be paying about €540 a year in PRSI. Over a 40-year career, that would have amounted to less than €20,000 (given low pay rates and increments in earlier years). It’s patently obvious such an amount would pay for very little.

An ordinary PAYE worker paying higher PRSI would, on the same salary, have an annual bill of around €2,150 and a career cost of over €85,000 – considerably higher but still limited in buying power for the wider range of benefits they can obtain.

That’s precisely because PRSI is a social insurance scheme – designed to pay out benefits in the event of the need arising. It was never designed to be a universal entitlement, such as child benefit.

Am I to understand that, in choosing to stay single, you would wish to receive alternative benefit commensurate to child benefit paid to families with children and funded out of the tax paid by you and everyone else. Should the alternative benefit equate to the average number of children per family? Maybe, as two adults (generally) form a family, the benefit should be split arbitrarily between you and one other random single person?

All this, of course, is clearly unworkable. Imperfect as they may be, benefits are designed to provide a financial cushion for people whose income can decline, often sharply, because of circumstance, rather than choice – such as losing a partner or a job.

I think it is stretching it a bit far to suggest such practices are discriminatory towards people who choose to stay single.

As it happens, your class D benefit will cover carer’s benefit, along with the bereavement grant, occupational injuries benefit, the contributory guardian’s payment and, of course, the contributory widow(er)’s pension which is paid also to surviving civil partners.

This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice. Please send your questions to Q&A, c/o Dominic Coyle, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or to No personal correspondence will be entered into.
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