Case studies

General debt

Elaine’s Story

We are parents of a primary school going child. We have been through a very difficult period in our lives. I lost my permanent teaching position due to life/health circumstances, that could happen to anyone. My husband is a tradesperson. He, like many others, depended on the construction sector for employment. This sector imploded from 2006, due to the recession. We were left with a new baby, a large house with a large mortgage, no income. Needless to say our health suffered further.

We found ourselves slipping into arrears. The best step we took was the day my husband organised an appointment with Brian.

We had several meetings with this nice man in MABS. The people there were patient, empathetic, non judgemental, highly knowledgeable in all the necessary monetary, financial and budgetary advice areas.

Everything was simplified. MABS brought us from near repossession and desperation to gaining a pathway towards financial stability and keeping our family home.

We could never find the words to thank MABS enough for their support and guidance.

We would highly recommend and encourage anyone with any or a similar difficult situation to get in touch with MABS

Debt Relief Notice (DRN)

Donna’s Story

I’m a mother of 2 kids. I was working but I got post-natal depression and I was unable to continue to work. When I eventually got over the depression there were no jobs to be had. I’m on lone parent’s allowance so money is tight. I started to build up debt with the credit union and an overdraft, but I couldn’t make the payments. For a good few years I really worried about money. And when the letters started to come through the door, I had complete apathy because I didn’t have anything to give. But I knew I couldn’t go on like this forever, so I spoke to MABS and they put me in touch with an Approved Intermediary. Although the process was slow, it was explained clearly to me and they suggested a DRN (Debt Relief Notice). While I was waiting for it to be approved, I kept thinking about the solution, wondering would it actually happen, or would they be looking for something else. I live in a council house. I don’t have anything else. When I got the call to say it was approved, I felt absolute relief. All the weight just lifted off me. Now I know what’s what for the next 3 years. There are no letters or messages now. And things may change in 3 years time. If jobs pick up I hope to get back working. I’d recommend ISI and an Approved Intermediary to anyone. I couldn’t believe the amount of help that was out there. I found them to be brilliant. They both gave good, steady advice and set my mind at ease. My 13 year old son knew something was wrong before, so I was able to tell him “there’s a plan!” Now he’s an awful lot happier. All I’d say is, if you’re struggling with debt, take a deep breath and get in touch with those who can help. Debt should never become a worry and if it is, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Siobhan’s Story

I’m a widow, living alone. I was working but I have ill health, so I had been out of work sick when there were redundancies, and I was one of the people let go. I had credit union and credit card debt of about €19,000. This debt, plus the expense of the hospital visits, scans and tests put me under real financial pressure. For almost 5 years I’d been struggling to sort things out. Even just trying to deal with everyday bills was a problem. My sisters didn’t know. I didn’t want them to know. I had been going to MABS for a few years and they did a budget for me, but I still couldn’t manage to pay all my bills. I got into a terrible state, I was stressed and in a very bad place. I heard about DRNs on the radio and thought it might be an option for me. I spoke to my MABS person and they put me in contact with an Approved Intermediary. I was very nervous about my first meeting but it went very well. She explained every word I didn’t know and talked me through the process clearly. When I got the phone call to say my DRN had been approved, I immediately felt calm. I just sat on the chair… right back into it. I felt light. It’s like a big black cloud has lifted from you. I was so relieved I was almost crying. In fact, I did cry a tear. The sort of person I am, I bundle things up inside and I think I can deal with it myself. On the outside, I was on automatic pilot. I was afraid I would meet people and they would know what was going on. My advice to anyone out there with money difficulties? Stop sitting worrying. Get up and go to MABS or ISI. Ask them for advice. Ask them about debt relief. Don’t keep the burden to yourself. Already I feel more at ease, I have more energy and my health is improving. It’s made an unbelievable difference to my life.

Debt Settlement Arrangement

Michael’s Story

I worked in construction. Then it got quiet, too quiet. The work dried up and I found myself in debt of over €50,000. I started to worry about how I would get through it. One afternoon I heard about insolvency on the radio. So I went online and checked the ISI website. From there, I got in contact with a PIP. When I met him, I laid it all out, there was no holding back. I have to say he was great. He went through my options and talked me through the best one for me. From the start, he was sure it would work. Getting help is like winning the lotto. I had thought the pressure on my shoulders was never going to end. But the PIP made a massive difference. Once I gave him the information, it was all in his hands, it gave me a chance to step back, take a breath and recharge. My PIP had a figure of what I could afford to repay. I knew if it was passed that would be what I would have to pay for the next 5 years, which made it so much more manageable. There would be no interest added, or ever changing amounts each month. He was confident that the people I owed money to would accept it but I was on tenderhooks thinking about the difference it would make if it came off. When I got confirmation that it was accepted, I was overjoyed. In 5 years, I will be debt free. There are no more phone calls, letters or worries about knocks to the door. This is a new beginning. I would highly recommend getting in touch with a PIP. Mine was totally reliable and it was no problem meeting him at any time. He did charge a fee but it was built into my monthly repayments which was easier and it is his livelihood after all. Without the PIP, I don’t think I would have been able to get out of my situation. I still tell people it was the best money I’ve ever spent.

Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA)

Josephine’s Story

We'd been in arrears for a good few years on both the mortgage and our credit union loan. We tried to pay a little off each to keep everyone happy but we were getting calls mostly about the mortgage. It's a vicious circle when you are trying to pay as much as you can. My husband suffers with depression a bit but the banks didn’t want to know. One day I received a letter from the bank threatening us with repossession. I rang and pleaded with them saying “I don’t want my husband in the grave", but there was no change in their approach. The worst thing is you're made to feel like criminals. We're just an ordinary family doing the best we can. When I realised things were not going to get better, I got in touch with a PIP. Almost immediately we felt a sense of relief. After our first meeting, where our options were explained properly to us, we came out feeling hopeful... we had initiated a process, we were doing something. Our PIP dealt with the bank for us and they were off our backs.. I could actually see the relief in my husband's face - that some weight had been lifted. The wait to see if it would all go through was hard but when we found out it had been accepted, it was like winning the lotto! We were nearly in tears thinking, it seemed surreal. The kids used to ask us what’s wrong and we'd say it’s hard to pay bills. Now it's a relief that money is available for school. When we first heard about meeting our PIP, we thought we’d be meeting a fella in a suit who would judge us. But he talked to us like two human beings. If you're in any way like we were, don’t be afraid to look for the help. It's so much better than facing it alone.

Johnny’s Story

In 2007 I was in a great job earning great money. But then the recession hit and in a matter of months, it was obvious things were starting to go the wrong way with our mortgage. We quickly decided to sell but the sale fell through so we ended up stuck with repayments that we couldn’t afford. Pretty soon after that, I had to take a massive pay cut in work so the bank accepted interest only and we continued on like that for a couple of years. Then I was made redundant so we had no income and a huge mortgage. A friend mentioned ISI and suggested getting in touch with a PIP which we did. I cannot speak highly enough of our PIP. She kept us updated throughout and her expertise was second to none. She put everything to us in layman terms with no jargon. When we came out of her office after that first meeting we looked at each other and thought “she knows what she’s doing”. After 7 years of worry and sleepless nights, we finally felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It was such a relief. She dealt with the creditors for us. Waiting to see if our proposal would be accepted was the hardest bit. It wasn’t until our PIP phoned to say it was accepted that we believed it. I cried when I got that call. It is such a weight off your shoulders. We were going on for so long and myself and my wife didn’t have any answers for each other. It is sheer relief that this is coming to an end. I suppose our PIP was like a guardian angel to us. I just wish I had heard about her years ago. All I would say is don’t let it go on another year, deal with it now. If you don’t meet the right PIP, keep searching. And after 7 long years, we’re now able to get our life back.

Richard's Story

Ten years ago I was due to retire. I heard people on the radio saying that people retiring should be investing in property, so I bought a house and rented it out. At that time the rent was paying the mortgage. But in 2008 we had the crash. Suddenly I had no tenant, and the mortgage went up. My civil service pension dropped by €50 a fortnight, then the USC came in and that was €100 a fortnight. Soon, I couldn’t pay the mortgage on the rental property. I began to run up credit card debt to pay for it and pretty quickly both the card and the bank debt built up. I was in a mess. Our marriage began to be affected with the stress of it all. Every morning at 5.00am we were lying awake worrying. As time went on, my lump sum got smaller and smaller. The rental house we bought was near where we live; every time we passed it, we felt sick. When I got letters in the post I threw them aside thinking they must be from the bank. I was too afraid to answer the phone. One time, I kept getting calls from a Dublin number. They called me for 3 days solid. I ignored them all because I was sure it was the bank. When I eventually rang the number back it turned out I had won a competition prize worth hundreds of Euro. But because they had been unable to contact me they had given the prize to the next person. I had missed out on it because I had been afraid to answer the phone. That’s how much my life was affected. Soon after, I got a letter from the bank asking me to sign over the rental house. I went to our solicitor who told me “If you sign the house over to them, they will sell the house and you will still owe them.” So instead, he suggested we meet a PIP. We were terrified initially but talking to our PIP was like talking to a family friend. It wasn’t like talking to a bank manager at all. The whole conversation was so relaxed; there was no pressure. I came home from the meeting a happy man. He said he would sort it out. I gave him my pension slips, my bills, everything and that was it. Once I got the protective certificate, I got no more calls from the bank. The PIP did all the work. He explained everything clearly and he kept me in the loop regularly about what was happening. When I heard the PIA was passed, I cried. I could not believe it. As part of the arrangement the rental house is gone. The credit card bill is gone. I would have been willing to hand back the keys to the rental house like they demanded but I would still be €180,000 in debt. It would have had to come from my estate when I died. The family would have been left with nothing. Ten years ago I had no mortgage. Now I have one. I’ve no debts now, just the normal bills and a mortgage on our family home. To be honest, I put this all down to our PIP. I had been speaking to the bank for 3 years. After talking to our PIP for just half an hour, he was able to fix it, it was going to be sorted. You would think “What’s the catch?” but there is no catch. We are now out of debt. And speaking to the PIP was the answer. I would encourage anybody in a similar circumstance to do the same.

Bankruptcy

Lee’s Story

I’m an electrician by trade. Construction was badly affected by the recession and it was Christmas 2008 when I lost my job. I was grand for about four months because I had savings and I thought I would get another job straight away. My main debt was my mortgage, and soon I couldn’t make the full repayments. I also had a small credit union loan. For a while, I was able to make arrangements with the bank and never missed a payment that way but then they sent a letter saying that the mortgage was unsustainable. I had been dealing with MABS in order to have an outside opinion but they advised me to look at the other options available to me once I got that letter. So I got in touch with a local PIP. There is a list of PIPs on the ISI website. From the very first meeting, he was easy to deal with and initally thought that I might be suitable for a PIA. So he tried to negotiate with the bank but they wouldn’t consider it. In April, a protective certificate was issued for 70 days. That was the first time I couldn’t make the mortgage payment. We thought the creditors would accept the arrangement but the bank wouldn’t budge, so bankruptcy became my only option. My PIP explained this was not something to worry about. From August 2014 I was preparing for the worst. I hoped something might happen that I could still keep the house. In the end I went bankrupt. I can’t describe my relief when I left the bankruptcy court. And even though the process won’t be over until I leave the house, at least I feel I can move forward. The credit union debt is written off. Once I leave the house, the mortgage debt will be gone. So I’m prepared to move out in July and embrace this as a fresh start. It was just brilliant to have someone to help me deal with it. My message to other debtors is to get the advice you need. When you get the letter from the bank, do what you have to do. Don’t leave it ‘til the last minute. Organisations like the ISI are there to help you. Throughout it all, my PIP supported me and helped me to work through it. Finally, I can look forward to my future.

Mortgage Debt

Jane’s Story

I had been struggling with my mortgage for around 4/5 years after taking a huge pay cut at work, to say I was stressed was an understatement, I couldn’t remember the last time I slept properly or was really relaxed and happy.

I was at a friend’s house in March having dinner and she was also struggling with her mortgage after separating from her husband. She mentioned she had had a few meetings with MABS and couldn’t recommend them enough.

I then contacted MABS myself and was put in touch with a lovely lady. It was phone conversations for a few months as I needed to get copies of a few things, such as bank statements, mortgage statements and all the correspondence from my building society.

I met MABS in person in May and even after the first meeting I felt a little of the stress easing away as MABS dealt directly with the building society on my behalf, which put an end to all the letters telling me I owed arrears dropping on my door mat, that in itself was a huge thing because the letters weren’t nice and were very upsetting to read.

After 3 meetings with MABS, and thanks to all their amazing work, the building society restructured my mortgage, and offered me monthly payments that I could afford, I have been paying the new amounts now for the last 2 months and can’t believe that I am now sleeping the complete night and even have money in my pocket.

I really can’t thank MABS enough for their amazing work, they are professional and compassionate and they do an amazing job.

John

John was in difficulty with his mortgage. He was four months in arrears. He received a letter from his mortgage supplier advising him of the situation and requesting him to get in touch with them to discuss the arrears situation under the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). He called the MABS Helpline 0761 07 2000 to find out about the MARP and what he should do.

Download John's Story (pdf).

Helen and Colin

Helen and Colin found themselves in serious financial difficulty, because of a change in their circumstances, even though once they had good incomes. They had a mortgage on their primary residence and substantial debts owing to secondary creditors. When they contacted their local MABS office, many legal actions were either pending or already taken. When the MABS Adviser assessed them, it became clear that all of the debts were being dealt with by solicitors from different credit institutions. No negotiations had taken place directly with creditors, the solicitors engaged on the creditors’ behalf did not enter into a holistic process or gather information on all other debts to establish their position, and so Helen and Colin’s situation was not known or fully understood by anyone.

Download Helen and Colin's Story (pdf).