Lenders who are putting the squeeze on families
STRUGGLING borrowers trying to keep a roof over their heads are being harassed and intimidated by lenders.
In one case a father-of-three was told by his mortgage lenders to send his children's allowance cheques to pay off the debt, a Herald investigation has found.
Borrowers across the country are being put under huge pressure by certain institutions to make repayments -- even when these bills are not necessarily the top priority.
Earlier this week a woman who lost her house at the High Court claimed that she was "verbally threatened" by an "extremely aggressive and hostile" representative of the lender Nua Mortgages Ltd.
She found herself in financial difficulties in January 2009 and although she was told there was no problem, the lender sent "a thug to frighten and intimidate a woman".
At one stage, the representative threatened her with jail and told her she had no way out of the situation. He backed her into a corner, she said, and her own solicitor had to physically push him off the property "he was so aggressive".
Ms Justice Dunne told the couple she would grant the order for possession "to bring to an end what has been an unhappy saga for both of you".
She said although she could not decide on the truth of what had happened at the meeting without taking oral evidence, she would "strongly criticise the conduct".
Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) representative Michael Culloty said that they have received calls from individuals concerned about aggressive tactics.
"We have anecdotal evidence that people are experiencing this. It wouldn't necessarily be the mainstream creditors -- it's particularly unsecured creditors," he said.
"They can put an inordinate amount of pressure on consumers. They are forcing people to prioritise debts that are not a priority.
"Wherever there are incidents of aggressive behaviour, we would urge people to contact the gardai," he added.
Joan Collins TD, who is behind the Defend Our Homes League, said some lenders call on a regular basis sometimes once a day, in an attempt to wear down the consumer.
"The conversations they have with people are very aggressive," she told the Herald.
"People are just very scared and they don't know where to turn. It can have a profound affect on people's psychological state.
"It's a horrible place to be."
Mr Culloty said that consumers must be aware of their rights under the Consumer Protection Code.
"If there are too many phone calls, take note of the dates and the times that you received them," he said.
"If they feel overly pressurised by any creditor, consumers have rights."