Couple who borrowed €1.4m given three months to save their home

Ulster Bank Ireland seeking to repossess family home over disputed arrears debt

 

A Dublin couple have been given three months by a judge to save their family home.

Anthony and Miriam Freeman, of Villa Park Gardens, Navan Road, Dublin, are fighting in the Circuit Civil Court to prevent Ulster Bank Ireland repossessing their family home on a disputed arrears debt of €169,000.

Last May, the High Court dismissed claims by the couple, who who borrowed some €1.4m to refinance property investments, that their lender did not validly appoint a receiver over their assets when they went into arrears. They are appealing the case to the Supreme Court.

Judge Jacqueline Linnane told the Freemans on Friday that the family home situation will be decided on April 23rd next and she directed that all necessary papers be exchanged between the parties by mid-March.

Ms Freeman, who represented herself and her husband in court, said her health had deteriorated and she had been unable to complete an application for legal aid. She said they disputed the claimed debt of €169,000 on the December 2003 mortgage of €460,000 on their home.

She claimed the bank had mismanaged the couple’s mortgage account and had overcharged them on interest. Counsel for the bank said she was repeating issues made in a High Court commercial investment case and all of which had been rejected by Mr Justice Brian McGovern last May.

On Friday, Ms Freeman said she accepted there was a debt to be paid to Ulster Bank Ireland but did not accept the amount claimed. There was a lot more detail to be gone into and the Supreme Court appeal against Judge McGovern’s decision was being strenuously pursued in relation to their six investment properties.

Mr Justice McGovern stated in his judgment that the couple between 1996 and 2006 had bought six houses in Dublin at Huntstown Drive, Huntsdown Wood and Willowood, Blanchardstown, and at Ventry Drive and Drumcliffe Drive, Cabra West and Dunsink Green, Finglas.

He said this had been financed by First Active Building Society and later re-mortgaged with Bank of Scotland for €1,406,000. When the First Active debt had been paid the couple had been left with a surplus in excess of €546,000 which they had spent on themselves over a period of 16 months.

Mr Justice McGovern said the evidence clearly showed that the plaintiffs went on a spending spree with the surplus, both buying expensive motor vehicles and had gone on at least one holiday to the United States, drawing down just under $60,000 while there.

He said Miriam Freeman had been unable to explain why so many substantial cash withdrawals were made and why they were not applied towards the investment property business.

The judge said both Freemans had furnished misleading information to Bank of Scotland at the time they applied for the loans, grossly inflating the net profit of Mr Freeman’s window cleaning business which gave them only a modest income.

Mr Justice McGovern, who threw out all of the issues raised by the Freemans in their High Court action against the bank and its receiver, said the couple had sought to invalidate the appointment of the receiver over the sale of their properties.

He said that at a time when they owed Bank of Scotland over €1.4 million they had taken no steps to reduce the principal sum due and owing to the bank from the excess of €546,000 but had spent it on themselves.