I was living quite happily with my mother in a terrace house which she had owned for many years. Then Salford Council decided that the area needed to be "regenerated" and slapped a Compulsory Purchase Order on our home. We were told we had to move and that was it, the entire street was going to be demolished. As my mother was an owner occupier of many years standing we were told we would qualify for financial assistance under the Council's relocation assistance policy to help with the move with "no problem" providing we agreed to move to a new home within an area of Salford determined by the Council. This severely restricted our options in choosing a new home to move to. We were given to understand we were being re-housed as a family and being moved to what would be a new family home. My poor mother was in her early eighties while this was going on and terrified at the prospect of having to move from the home she loved and had lived in most of her married life.
The relocation assistance financial package consisted of a grant of £25,000 plus an equity "top up" loan which in our case amounted to about £11,000. The grant was provided by the Council but the equity loan was advanced by a "partner" of the Council called Salford Money Line (SML) Ltd, who have since become a subsidiary of another, Birmingham, based company called Street (UK) Ltd. We were told that the conditions attaching to this assistance were that, in the case of the grant, it was discounted over a period of 10 years such that if the new home was sold within the 10 year period the grant would be repayable on a "pro rata" basis. The equity loan lasts until the property is sold. However, there is a formula attached to the equity loan which provides for the amount repayable to be reduced pound for pound if the eventual sale price of the new home is less than the nominal purchase price.
We had little choice other than to accept this package and find a new home to move to. We eventually moved in December 2008 to a flat in a new development just down the road. Unfortunately the move so badly affected my poor mother's physical and mental health that she was unable to settle down. Within a few months she developed severe anemia and had to be admitted to hospital where she remained for 6 weeks. Then social services decided she required 24 hour care and could not return to live with me. She was found a place in a local care home. After a few months there her health again deteriorated and she was admitted to hospital again where she sadly died in March 2010.
I was devastated by my mother's death and it took me many months to sort out our affairs. When, in early 2011, I informed Salford Council of her death I was told that her death, for the purposes of the relocation assistance , counted the same as a sale of our new home and that all the finance less just 1/10 of the relocation grant, was now repayable by me if I wished to continue living at our new home, otherwise the property would have to be sold. The amount they said was repayable was approximately £35,000, which I do not have and could never raise from a mortgage from a 3rd party given my circumstances.
I was asked to attend an interview with the local manager of SML to give an account of my financial situation and my ability to repay this absurd sum of £35,000. I co-operated fully and attended the interview at the end of March 2011. The manager said he might be able to arrange a deal for me with the Council under which, if I agreed to repay in full the equity loan of £11,000 by the early partial surrender of my investment bond, which would involve me incurring an early surrender penalty, plus agree to incur the legal costs of having the leasehold ownership of our new home formally transferred to me, the Council "might" be prepared to transfer the grant of £25,000 to me on the same terms it was provided to my mother. I provisionally agreed to this at the time and the manager said he would put this offer to the Council. That was the last I heard on this for the next 16 months.
After such a delay of 16 months I thought the matter had died a death but I was contacted completely out of the blue and with no apology or explanation for the delay by SML in early July 2012. A person from SML left a message on my phone saying the matter of the finances now had to be "sorted out". In a subsequent e-mail this person said that, following my mother's death, the finances were now repayable and they were acting on behalf of the Council to seek repayment from me if I wished to continue living at the new home we had been forced to move to by the Council. So, it was not enough that we had been forced by the Council to move, this move so badly damaging my poor mother's health that she died just over a year after the move, they now wanted all the money advanced to my mother back from me or I could be facing possible eviction.
I am contesting this whole matter on the following grounds:
(1) The equity value of our new home has dropped substantially since December 2008 when we moved, given the appalling crime and vandalism in this part of Salford, such that it would be very difficult to sell at any price and certainly could not be sold for anything like the nominal purchase price of £100,000. Therefore under the formula relating to repayment of the equity loan it is likely that the amount repayable would be reduced to nil. On the basis of this argument I have withdrawn my previous offer to the manager of SML to repay the equity loan in full.
(2) At present the leasehold ownership of the flat is still in my mother's name and I do not consider that any change in title to the flat has occurred and therefore nothing has occurred to trigger either Salford Council or SML to make a claim for repayment of any of the finance. In particular, until such time as I formally have the leasehold ownership legally transferred to me no liability to this debt devolves on me personally and no legal claim for repayment of this sum can be claimed from me.
(3) The loan agreement from SML and the Council's "terms and conditions of relocation assistance" are a mess of ambiguous and contradictory language which I do not have the space to fully go into here.
Neither SML or Salford Council have made any comment whatever on the the above arguments. Salford Council are not even communicating with me direct but channel everything through SML,
who have no authority whatever to make decisions on behalf of the Council and have to refer everything back to the Council. I have now made a further offer to the Council via SML, that I will agree to have the leasehold ownership legally transferred to me on the condition that all the finance is equally transferred to me on the exact same terms it was provided to my mother. This offer was submitted a month ago and I have yet to receive any response.
I am worried that just about a week before we were to move back in December 2008 I was sent a form I had to sign before the move could go ahead which required me to "waive right of occupation" in the event that the property was repossessed by the "lenders". This would mean that if the "lenders" were able to persuade a Court that the charges they hold on the property, which amount to just about 1/3 of the nominal value of the property, the other 2/3rds being held by my mother's estate outright, were sufficient to justify an order to be issued for the property to be sold I would have to quit the property along with all my possessions while the property was put up for sale. You might say I was stupid for signing such a form but I had little choice at that late date when I was in the middle of packing up all our stuff and we had no other alternative but to move. Our former home along with the entire street was demolished earlier this year.