HeavyHeart, EmptyPurse

Hi everyone

My name is Jennifer. I havent posted here before but I read the forum quite a lot. Last night in bed, I decided that I'd write something here today, because quite honestly, given the frame of mind I'm in, I thought it might help to share my story, so that perhaps maybe 1% might help someone else avoid what I'm going through.

Ten years ago, I had to give up my job due to illness. Nothing terminal, but bad enough for me to have to turn my back on a job (and a company) that I loved and worked for, for over 20 years. Since then, I've been surviving on just a fraction of my salary.

About two years after I had to leave my job, I met my partner, Pete. As sad as it may sound, we met in an internet chat room (quite innocently!), and then we met in person, and we've been together ever since. That was about 8 years ago.

When I met Pete, he was living at home with his parents. He wasnt a youngster (neither of us are - I'm 42 and he's 55 now), but it was just one of those things; he lived with his parents. I was living in a house on my own.

After a while, we decided to move in together. We bought a flat, and things were going very well for a while. Life was rolling by for both of us, and neither of us thought we'd find a life partner at our age. We thought our chances had gone, but we were lucky to have found each other.

Pete earned (and still earns) a very decent salary. My income was fairly pitiful in comparison, but together we made things work. We decorated our new flat, went on a few holidays, went out for dinner once in a while. The usual stuff that most people like to do.

After a couple of years, Pete told me that he thought it would be a good idea if he put his previous house (the one he lived in with his parents) into both his and my name. We were partners, and therefore we should be joint owners of the house too. At that point, we were paying a mortgage on our small flat, as well as that other house. His parents were still living in it; rent-free, which at the time was ok.

So we went through the legal process of changing the deeds on the house from just Pete's name to our joint names. No big deal. It didn't matter to me one way or the other, but he wanted it that way.

A year or so later, we did start to feel as if money was becoming a little tight. We noticed that it wasnt so easy to pay our bills each month, and that our credit card balances were going up. We cut back on our spending, assuming that this would help. It did to some extent, but over time, it seemed that the interest we were paying on some of our cards (mainly Virgin Mastercard) was more than the minimum payment - which meant that by paying the minimum payment every month, the balance went up, even though we didnt use the card.

Anyway, as things got tighter, Pete and I discussed the fact that his parents were still residing in his old house, but that we were paying 100% of the mortgage, and they weren't paying anything. We both felt that maybe we should ask them if they could help out with the mortgage - even just a small amount would have helped.

Pete was pretty reluctant to do this. He felt that although he owned the house at the time he moved in with me, he couldnt really ask his parents to contribute. I felt differently, but we agreed to let things go as it just seemed easier not to upset anyone.

Skip forward a couple of years, and we realised that financially, we were in very deep do-do. Bills were coming in thick and fast. Money was getting more and more scarse. We were very seriously beginning to struggle. And no matter how much we cut back, it seemed that each month got harder and harder as time went by.

We were never huge spenders. We dont drink, we dont smoke. We didnt buy outrageous wine or go on round-the-world holidays. We just had an occasional week away, nothing very glamorous. We went to the cinema once in a while, maybe the theatre a couple of times a year, but that was that. Plus we have no children, so our money was our own. Or so we thought.

Pete eventually spoke to his parents about the possibility of them contributing to the mortgage on the house they lived in (but that we owned). Essentially, it was a 5-bedroom house in a fantastic part of Cheshire. It was worth a small fortune, and we had a very small mortgage on it, but even that small mortgage was starting to hurt.

To cut a long story short, Pete's parents (mainly his mother, who seemed to be the more vocal of the two) told Pete that she contribute, only over her dead body, and that she would rather see Pete and me living on the streets than for her to put her hand in her pocket.

Surprising, seeing as they had always been very close.

After a lot of begging and pleading, we felt that we had no choice. We went into Manchester one day, to file papers against his parents. It was either a case of us getting them out of the house (so that we could sell it), or they had to contribute. We were happy(ish) for them to live there, but we could no longer go on paying a mortgage on that huge house, as well as our house (which is like a shoe box in comparison).

Again, to cut a long story short, Pete's parents then claimed that because they lived in the house, they 'owned it' (although the legal deeds said something very different), and our solicitor told us that if we went ahead with legal action, and if we got an unsympathic judge, not only would we lose our case, but we'd be faced with up to £20,000 court costs.

To this day, I've no idea how the deeds for the house can have only Petes name and mine on them, but how a judge could then even possibly think that his parents would have a right to be 'owners' of the house too. What is a deed for if it isnt to clearly state who the legal owners are??

Anyway. It was getting too much for us. We were both getting ill. We made a rather stupid decision, in order for us to avoid breaking down with depression.

We came to an agreement with Pete's parents. If they were to move out of that big house, we would sell it, and with the proceeds (after paying off the mortgage) we would buy them a flat that they could live in, rent free, for life. It seemed the only way.

They jumped at the chance of life-long rent-free living (who wouldnt??), and so thats what we did. Unfortunately, the type of flat they insisted on living in cost a little more than we had money for, so we took a mortgage out. Just a small one, of £45,000. The flat cost £165,000. The remainder we paid in cash.

So we have approximately £120,000 equity in their flat. Or OUR flat, that they live in.

As for our own house, its worth approximately £180,000, and our mortgage balance is around £21,000, meaning that we have around £159,000 of equity in the house we live in. Plus the £120,000-odd in that other flat.

So thats not at all bad.

Problem being that we've been dumb. Very dumb. In all these years we've been together, what have we done? We've lived on credit cards. Everything we buy, from a pint of milk to a week on the Isle of Wight, goes straight onto a credit card.

We used whichever ones had any credit. We could take our pick from Virgin, First Direct, Tesco, Barclaycard, NatWest, Saga, and about 20 others.

Fast forward to April 2006.

Our monthly credit card repayments are approximately a vile, disgusting and frightening £2000.00. After paying 2 mortgages and other vital expenses, we have approximately £900.00 that we can put towards credit card minimum payments.

We owe, on cards alone, nearly £140,000.

Well, thank goodness for balance transfers. Its easy - if you dont have the money to pay a minimum payment, just call up and transfer it. At least you're meeting your commitments, and bailiffs wont come knocking at the door.



Bailiffs havent knocked, because nobody really knows we're in such deep turmoil. As long as the card companies get their minimum payment, they dont really care. But when you do a balance transfer in the circumstances that we do them in, you're not really paying anything off at all, and all you're doing is delaying the knock on the door.

Its now Saturday night. The weather is starting to become very spring-like, and I keep thinking to myself "isnt it a beautiful day?", immediately followed by "is this the year that I'm going to have to live under a bridge, the way Pete's mother insisted I would?"

Those thoughts arent so bad. Its the suicidal thoughts that keep coming into my head which terrify me. When I pick up a kitchen knife to cut some bread or whatever, I keep having a serious thought of that scene in Psycho. You know, the shower scene. But I think of using the knife on myself, and nobody else. In the space of a split second in time, life can feel great, and then the greatness vanishes to become miserable, and life-threatening.

We have a legal agreement drawn up with Pete's parents. It states that they can live in that flat for life, rent-free. I see no way out of that. If there was a way out of it, I'm afraid I'd exercise whatever rights I had to get them out, because at this point, niceness has to make way for 'survival of the fittest'. But we're only barely surviving, and we're no longer fit.

If only we could access the equity we have in our two properties. We could pay everything off. But as things stand as of right this moment, we have no savings, and bills flying through our letterbox faster than Concorde was able to reach New York.

I've spoken to the CCCS. Actually, I sobbed at the CCCS. They didnt think there was much they could do to help, simply because in real terms, we have money - we just cant get to it. And because of those balance transfers, we've kept the wolves from our door. So technically, we dont have a problem. I tend to disagree.

Obviously, if anyone has any suggestions as to how to break a contract that you have with two freeloaders who would rather see us on the streets than to help us, that would be great.

But I've written this from my heart, with a moral.

Ladies and gentlemen, please remember that if you even THINK you might be heading for financial trouble, delay getting that new toaster unless you really need it. That weekend in Paris can wait until you have the cash for it. New carpet might be nice, but carpet is carpet, and the old ones will do just fine. You dont have to buy Heinz baked beans, because Tesco own-brand are just as nice.

Small things like this will avoid you being like me. I'm sitting here tonight with my kitchen knife not very far away. I keep looking at it. I'm not suicidal, but the knife is there to remind me that it wouldnt take much for me to be suicidal, and all because of some silly spending, and because of the parents of the man I love deeply who wont throw us a lifeline.

2006 is likely to be the year that something awful happens, whether its losing our house of losing our life. I dont know which will happen soonest. But to anyone who has stuck with this post and read it all the way through, I can only urge you to think carefully about what you buy, versus what you really really need. The two very rarely meet.

Unfortunately, the UK is horribly expensive. Many things are a rip off. And Pete and I, two nice, respectable middle class people, fell into the trap of believing that in order to have a good life, we had to buy it.

How wrong can two people be? And how low can two people feel?

Thanks for listening.


  • Chortle_2
    Chortle_2 Posts: 403 Forumite
    wow heavyheart (((hugs)))

    I don't quite know what to say. I've just read all of that through, and my heart really goes out to you. What an awful situation (and what awful parents your OH has!)

    CCCS may not be able to help you, but I am sure that the DFW nerds on here can, if you want them to. It is a very long road, but to have got so far intact - I am sure that you both have the strength to see it through!
    Highest Debt (Sept 04) -> £41,300 :(
    Debt Free - August 2006!! :D

  • Alleycat
    Alleycat Posts: 4,599
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    Hi Jen, does not sound like a fun situation you are in at the moment. Even though CCCS may not have been able to help you, there is plenty of support and advice here on this board.

    Firstly, I would like to ask you a couple of questions. The property that you have bought for your partner, Pete's parents how many bedrooms does it have? I was thinking whilst reading your post that maybe (I know it isn't the best situation, but...) you could sell the house you are currently in to release the equity to pay the debts, move in with his parents for a while and then when the dust has settled financially look at renting a place for the two of you. I know its not ideal especially as you have previously been used to owning a place, but at least you would be free of your debts and what money you do have coming in would be yours to spend. I guess there isn't a way out of the contract you have with his parents, so the best thing to do would be to work with it and maybe use it to your advantage by having somewhere to fall back on in this way.

    Regarding the debts, do you know what is owed and on what card? It would really help to post a statement of affairs of what you have coming in, what is going out (everything including groceries, car tax etc) and all your debts, minimum payments, APR's etc. That way we can have a look and see if we can suggest ways of juggling it about to help you deal with it.
    "I've fallen down a hole" - said in best Monty Python voice-over.
  • mom23
    mom23 Posts: 746 Forumite
    OMG BIG(((HUGS)))
    It sounds like a script from some horror movie!!
    Don' know what to say apart from what chortle says what bloody awful parents your OH has !!Can't beleive that any NORMAL parent would put there kid's through this!!
    Stay strong and someone will be along shortly hopefully with some advice!!!
    Please don't go near that kitchen knife!!(mind you i know where i'd like to stick it!!)

    More HUGS
  • What a very moving post.
    Much as I hate to suggest it, could you sell your house, rent somewhere and pay all your debts off, in the knowledge that somewhere down the line that flat will be yours?
  • The parents must be getting on a bit, it can't be all that long till they pop their clogs, then things will pick up.
  • Alleycat
    Alleycat Posts: 4,599
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    Just another thought, I'm not too legal but what would happen if you HAD to sell the flat, if you couldn't afford the mortgage etc? Where would you stand with the agreement you have with his parents? Okay so you couldn't boot them out and move in yourself, but if you had to sell to pay your debts, then that would release a lot of equity. It would teach them a lesson too, to find themselves homeless.
    "I've fallen down a hole" - said in best Monty Python voice-over.
  • What did the parents do for a house before Pete had the mortgage?
  • Alleycat
    Alleycat Posts: 4,599
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    Ignore, lost the last post so reposted now its back again, oops!!
    "I've fallen down a hole" - said in best Monty Python voice-over.
  • HeavyHeart
    HeavyHeart Posts: 32 Forumite
    Hello everyone, thanks so much for taking the time to read and reply to me. I was just sitting here, crying into my box of Kleenex (which were on sale!!) and I thought I'd look at my post and saw your replies. i'm very touched.

    Firstly, I know that I really must have a list of all my bills, but I have to be totally honest, I'm terrified of doing that. My frame of mind is so fragile that I'm seriously too scared to do it. I know thats avoiding the situation, and I know that makes it worse, but I'm worried about what I'll do if I see a total figure.

    As for moving in with Pete's parents, in an ideal world it would make sense, but unfortunately they refuse to have anything to do with us. Since all of this happened, they have changed their phone number and email address, and refuse to speak to Pete or me if we happen to see them in the street. They refuse to accept him as their son. It seems that they're quite happy for a 'stranger' to be paying for them to live for free.

    As for selling the house and renting, to be frank, it hadnt crossed my mind. Stupidly, I hadnt thought of that. That is certainly something to look in to.

    Right now, I have four bills to pay. M&S (min payment 102.00). Amex BA (320.00). Another Amex BA (289.00). Morgan Stanley (91.00). All to be paid before either of us get paid again. More balance transfers I guess. I dont know how else to pay them, as we have no money in our account. I've spent all the money I had from our last paycheques on the bills that came in last week. These four arrived this morning.

    The one that really scares me each month is First Direct. Minimum payment is around 600.00. A few years ago, my credit limit with First Direct was £4000.00. Stupidly, I called them to ask if I could increase my credit limit. The lady on the phone, while very friendly, asked me how much I'd like to increase it by. Sheepishly, I said "could I have an extra £1000.00?". After tapping on her keyboard, she said "well, we could actually give you a credit limit of £25,000 if you'd like it". Like some kind of child in a sweet shop, I accepted it. My balance at that point, on that card, was about £2000.00. My balance now is £23,000

    I accept full responsibility for my stupid spending (although some of it has been essential). I just wish banks and card companies would accept that they have responsibilites too. Upping my limit to £25,000?? Crazy for me to accept, even crazier for them to offer.
  • mummytofour
    mummytofour Posts: 2,636 Forumite
    Wow Jen, what a story.

    How about moving into the flat with petes parents? I know probaly a really stupid idea, I was kind of thinking it might make them move out...

    I guess failing that, then the next logical step is for you to sell your home and rent, you will be debt free, not maybe what you want but peace of mind is priceless, then maybe you can start to save, save like mad for a deposit on a new place, failing that you will one day get the flat back once P-I-L have passed away.

    I cannot get over how selfish and greedy these ppl sound, I think we all need to pay our way in life, not free load.

    One word of advice tho, please please please cut up your creid cards. You really dont need them.
    Debt free and plan on staying that way!!!!
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