Case study: ‘Only option was to sell or surrender our house’

Mother of two dreads the post arriving every day

Josephine Cullen outside her home just outside Edenderry, Co Offaly. Photograph: James Flynn/APX

Josephine Cullen outside her home just outside Edenderry, Co Offaly. Photograph: James Flynn/APX


Josephine Cullen’s “dread moment of the day” is when she collects her post each afternoon.

“If I see a letter from AIB my heart drops. I’m dreading it’s going to be the letter with the court date.” The mother of two children – aged 14 and 10 – has been in arrears with her mortgage since last August.

She and her husband bought the family home, in Edenderry Co Offaly, in 2005 for €240,000. They separated later that year. In March 2009 she took out a mortgage for €200,000 to buy her husband out and cover some legal fees.

“The repayments were fixed for a year at €850 a month so I was managing.”

In February 2010 she was made redundant from her job as a financial adviser, and in March her repayments increased to €950 a month. She fixed for two years, managed to keep up with repayments and in August got work in a supermarket at €12,000 per year. Although also receiving Family Income Supplement, which brought her weekly income to about €400, she struggled with repayments.

AIB gave her two six-month moratoriums when family expenses arose. As they drew to an end in June 2013, Cullen sent a financial review statement to AIB, but heard nothing back.

She contacted Phoenix, a free, donation-funded advice and advocacy service for people in mortgage distress, who advised her to pay €50 per week, which she did.

“On October 7th I got a letter from AIB saying the mortgage was unsustainable and the only options were to sell the house or give back the keys.” Phoenix wrote to AIB on her behalf. Julie Sadlier, a solicitor with the organisation, says they got a phone call from AIB who said the only option was to sell or surrender the house.

She put the house on the market last year. “I didn’t have one viewing in six months. I had it valued and was given its rebuild cost – €95,000.”

“I haven’t received any correspondence from AIB since October. I am still paying the €50 a week.” She approached Offaly County Council who told her she must have a court date for repossession before they can consider her homeless. They will then be able to offer B&B accommodation.

She has about €350 a week, and “manages”.