Friday, 10 October 2008

Housing sharks

In the midst of economic turmoil, the sharks are still circling, waiting to get their teeth into vulnerable people desperate for a lifeline.

The latest group to be stung is hard-up householders threatened with repossession. Smooth operators are offering to buy their houses and rent them back.

Sounds ideal, doesn't it? Except that all sorts of traps are lurking in the small print.

You might be paid only 50% of the house's real value. The agreement might only last a year. The rent might be as much as the mortgage - and might go up. You might be charged an 'arrangement fee'. And you might still be repossessed by the new owners.

There are now 2000 sale-to-rent schemes in the UK, and they're totally unregulated. The government is looking at the problem but they've yet to do anything concrete. Why?

One couple, Jane and Richard Hudson of Basildon, Essex, have lost their home of 13 years and they and their five children are now squeezed into cramped emergency housing.

Jane says of the company that conned them "They've robbed me, they've robbed my kids and they've knocked my confidence."

How predictable that there's always someone ready to take advantage of a catastrophe and milk those who're floundering. These people have the morals of an alleycat.

And the lesson? If some silver-tongued charmer offers you the perfect answer to your problems, ask a shed-load of awkward questions and go through the contract with a fine tooth-comb. Or you could rue the day.

NB: That's not the Hudsons in the pic, btw.


  1. Housing sharks are all around. And yes, there are no easy answers. It used to be that buying a house and taking on a mortgage was the first stepping stone to security, after finding a job. Now that is no longer the case.

    How do people re-build their confidence after everything they have worked to pay for is repossessed? It's heartbreaking.

  2. Hulla - Heartbreaking is the word. It's so difficult now to buy (and keep) a house of your own, when it should be the most basic and most simple thing you can do.

  3. Thrifty - Yes, the Hudsons must be very tempted by that idea. Find out where the bastard lives and trash HIS house and see how he likes it. After all, the government is doing zilch to help them and a legal case could drag on for years.

  4. Stories like that are devastating. I wish they were not becoming so commonplace. The depths of some peoples' greed never cease to amaze me.

  5. FG - And it's more than greed, it's also callousness, deceit and preying on the weak. The sort of people who would probably strangle their own granny if there was some money in it.

  6. I've heard of this scam in the US, too. It's dreadful and disgusting that people will feast on the problems of others.

    Unfortunately, desperate people are often not able to think clearly, and many of them were naive in the first place, which is what landed them in such a terrible predicament.

    If it seems too good to be true, it is.

  7. Heart - True, desperate people are often not thinking properly and they'll grab at anything that looks like an escape route. And some of these tricksters can be very plausible.

  8. Banks are vultures but these people that prey on others during financial chaos are bottom feeders - absolute scum!

  9. Only maggots feed on corpses, Nick, and that is a good word for them. The bad karma will revisit them, it always does but meanwhile these poor people and their life's savings in their houses. Plus all the emotion attached to their homes, etc.
    Like the pay-day lenders, they are probably financed by the big banks though. It would be very, very interesting to follow the money, wouldn't it?

  10. Quicky - They probably boast to each other about the latest person they've screwed and what an easy touch they were.

    www - Good point, these people must be financed by banks somewhere along the line. So what questions are the banks asking about the money, if any?

  11. I can't believe it? I haven't heard of anything like that happening here but it doesn't mean it's not going on. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures but there seems to be nothing in it for the sellers other than perhaps vanquishing some of their mortgage. Dreadful practice.

  12. Baino, I guess desperate people will do just about anything to try and salvage themselves from the mess they're in. Unfortunately they often unwittingly end up in an even more desperate situation.