You’re a little person fighting big institutions and you are led to believe that what they say is the truth. When you own a house with someone who goes bankrupt, the government takes over ownership at the point of bankruptcy. Had I been prepared for it, I could have done something sooner, but the first I heard about it was when the letter dropped on my doormat saying my ex had gone bankrupt and there were now limitations on my house; you can’t sell it, you can’t re-mortgage, you can’t do anything without asking. I’d been paying the mortgage on my own and he hadn’t even been keeping up with child maintenance.
It was our ex-marital home, it was our children’s home, it was my home. I put an argument together explaining that the bankruptcy had nothing to do with me and we were just linked by the deeds on the house. I argued for almost three years and the Insolvency Service requested that I buy him out of the property. I’m a single mum to three children and I just didn’t have that kind of money. They agreed to me getting a valuation from the time he had moved out; in the mean time I had further restrictions on my property. At this point my ex had doing nothing to help. They then agreed I could buy the property for a negative equity fee; I asked my ex for it and he said he’d get it to me. Months later I still didn’t have the money and I was told that the ‘Long-term Assets Management’ department is taking over the case, but it would continue as previously agreed. For months I had prolonged email communication with the department with no clear instructions, then they told me the offer to buy the house is out of date and they were going to revalue the house at its current market value. This took a further three months and of course, the value of the house had gone up and they said they wanted half of the current value of my house or I would be taken to court.
My children, the divorce and my financial contributions into the house were not taken into account. I got to breaking point and cried for hours. A girlfriend listened to me and took it all on board; she got a solicitor for me and helped me. The Insolvency Company were as rude to the solicitor as they were to me, she represented me and repeated everything I’d told them, but added that I would be willing to go to court and present the case. They backed down and they passed the case to another Insolvency Practitioner. The case went back to the Government Insolvency Service as we were approaching the three-year deadline. I then received a letter saying they weren’t interested, and they were releasing the property back into my ex-husband’s name. We had been through all this stress, the carpet was pulled from beneath us, my whole family was affected, not just me. I have complained about the way in which it was handled and eventually I received a letter of apology. I cried when I read it.
When women are left with children in this situation, you don’t have to feel like you don’t have any choices; you can fight it. My advice to anyone going through something similar is to confide in your family or friends, so you don’t fight on your own. It can be daunting when you receive ‘official’ papers with threatening content, but don’t let that scare you into accepting something that’s not fair.