Geeks Vs Loneliness: recovering from home repossession

It can be tricky to see any light when you're in the depths of financial hardship. A few words for those nearing rock bottom...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Hello and a very warm welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our quiet and friendly bit of the site where we talk about issues that may be affecting you, or people you know. Miracle cures aren’t to be found here, but we’ll try to get as close as we can (without being creepy) to placing a supportive virtual hand on your shoulder.

This time, we’re covering coming back from financial rock bottom. We’re handing over to the excellent Paul Childs, who wanted to share his story of how he overcame one of the worst experiences of his life – and how you, if any of this applies to you, hopefully can as well. Over to Paul…

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16 years ago, my wife and I were evicted from our house by the bank.

When it happened I had been out of work for a while and the financial pressures were really starting to mount up. The year or so that I was unemployed played out like a checklist of what not to do when you’re experiencing money troubles. I buried my head in the sand, put scary looking letters right into the recycling bin, kept things bottled up, and hoped a miraculous dream job offer or lottery win would materialise and solve everything at the eleventh hour.

I’m not really here to talk about how I could have avoided this. We ran an article about coping with money worries last year (which you can read here). This is more about my experiences after the worst had happened.

On the day, I heard a knock at the door. I got up to answer, tripped and knocked myself unconscious. I woke to a paramedic asking me if I was alright followed by a police officer (who was also a very good friend of mine) who told me what was about to happen. He then had to ring my wife at work and let her know the double bad news about my fall and the house.

The Citizens Advice Bureau says that the first thing you must do following an eviction is seek new accommodation. Because of my foolhardy approach to finances I did not know the bailiffs were coming that day. I had not arranged another place to stay when I suddenly found myself locked out of my own home. Fortunately for me my policeman friend let us stay on a spare bed in his lounge for a couple of days. During that time we joined the council housing list, visited several flats and houses and eventually another friend of ours, a vicar, and was able to arrange accommodation for us. It was an empty house which was normally used for clergy but as the previous curate had just left and was not due to be replaced for over a year they said we’d actually be doing them a favour keeping the house in good condition.

I was very fortunate in having good friends who were able to help, and humble enough to swallow my pride and accept it. Not everyone who loses their home is so fortunate. The homelessness charity, Shelter, has some excellent advice on finding a home immediately following eviction and I’d advise anyone finding themselves in the same boat as me to check it out.

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I had to swallow my pride. I had to have a very serious discussion with my wife about trust, money and our future. Then all our friends and family had to be informed. My parents actually found out from a cleaner who answered the phone in our former house and filled them in on all the juicy details – so I had to deal with the upset that caused. Facing people was tough but, although I felt thoroughly ashamed while filling them in, so many people said to us afterwards “If we’d known, we’d have chipped in to help”. This made me feel thoroughly ashamed while telling them but afterwards filled me with hope because of the love and forgiveness we received. I’d urge anyone going through this same thing, where possible, to keep your loved ones up to speed – hopefully they’ll help to carry you through, whether financially or emotionally.

The next hurdle was the financial mess we were going to have to deal with. I was still unemployed and we still needed to run a car to keep my wife’s job. This meant applying for every job going and accepting anything I could. Because I had redoubled my efforts during the week or two after losing the house I actually managed to find a great job. Initially there were no obvious financial ramifications. We were both now employed, staying in a nice house for virtually nothing, building up savings again, when about six months later a letter from the bank came. The house had sold at auction for a lot less than our mortgage – and they wanted the shortfall back.

It takes several years to have a repossession wiped from your credit record (although not as long as bankruptcy). During that time we were unable to apply for any kind of loans or credit. Even our bank account’s built-in overdraft was heavily regulated.

But we made it. We paid the shortfall back in full and our credit rating was restored. We just had to be especially cautious with our spending – I’m not suggesting we never had any fun or bought ourselves nice things but we had to check our finances before splashing out on a new CD, holiday, games console etc.

The National Debt Line has a wealth of advice on home repossession, how to avoid it or, if the worst happens, how to deal with the aftermath.

Most of all though I’d say to anyone going through this now: don’t let it beat you. You’re not the first person this has happened to and you won’t be the last. Talk to someone. The bank, your friends and family or even the good readers of this very site in the comments below. Admit that you’re in trouble and ask for help. Nobody wants to see you fail.

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Thanks, as always, for listening.