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Responding to letters from the bank

Responding to letters from the bank

For many homeowners who receive correspondence from their mortgage bank, understanding the letters and replying to them prove a task too much and no replies are sent. This is one of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make. It is usually the bank's intention to make the homeowner appear unco-operative as they can then move forward with demanding voluntary surrender or initiating court proceedings.

Don't avoid replying to the bank....
For those who do respond, they do so by phone and fail to keep a permanent record of what has been said or how co-operative they have been. With no paper trail the homeowner looks very naked compared to the bank, festooned with files and files of documents as they always appear to be. The very few who do write back to the bank often do not write letters as effectively as they could or should.

Although the National Land League are rolling out workshops throughout the country to assist homeowners in defending their homes, we cannot even hope to reach all of those in trouble. The following article is an outline of key tips and advice when reading bank letters and responding to them. We will try to provide you with this information as simply and clearly as possible but it is important you understand that you must practice if you are to master "critical" correspondence exchange.

There are a number of reasons why critical correspondence exchange is important to the homeowner in arrears, namely..... (i) Creates evidence of your co-operation, (ii) ensures that the bank do not make untrue statements that go unchallenged, (iii) assists you in accessing your rights under MARP - Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (please see earlier blogs), (iv) assists you in collating evidence against the bank.

To critically assess some information, let’s say a report or correspondence, means to examine it from alternative viewpoints. Critical assessment requires a number of pre-requisites, in other words things in place, before it can happen. The pre-requisites to critical assessment are….

1. A doubting mind (never accept information in a letter at face value).

2. An understanding that the “other side” has alternative motives.

3. An awareness of protocol and procedure (such as CCMA/MARP)

4. A framework of critical variables (categories / types of things to look out for)

In social sciences for example, critical variables can include considering reports or correspondence in terms of what it says about: Gender; Class; Religion; Age; Disability etc. The reader would ask him/herself, how does this material relate to women? To the poor? Etc. In the case of critically assessing bank correspondence there will be a different list of critical variables to use, namely…….

A. Does the correspondence make any untrue statements?

B. Does it provide you with an opportunity to make a reasonable request for information before making a final response.

C. Does the correspondence comply with CCMA/MARP?

Before diving into a bank correspondence it is best that you have certain tools at hand. Three blank sheets of paper and a pencil for start, and if possible a photocopy of  the bank letter. If you have a photocopy, you can write notes on it, but   you are advised to use the blank paper. You may wish   to use the original copy as evidence into the future. On each of the three sheets, write one of the three Critical variables on the header section. Make sure you are in an environment conducive to clear focus and free from interruption.

We shall look at each variable in more detail now....

A. Does the correspondence make any untrue statements?
Banking administrators often make efforts to portray those in arrears as un-cooperative. This can speed up the possession process and may also, if unchallenged, influence a Judge into the future. It is very important that you rebut (deny) any untruthful statements made in banking correspondence. If you do not rebut it is accepted as fact. Untrue statements can come in a number of forms like actual statements of fact, and others come in the form of presumptions.

Examples of banking untrue  “statements of facts”…

•“We have been trying unsuccessfully to make contact with you.”

“As per our correspondence of the 22/03/14 (earlier dated postmark)”.

“You have not made your repayments as per our most recent agreement.”

“As you have failed to correspond…”

“You have not provided us with the information we have requested…”

Any such “untrue statements” of fact must be responded to in your correspondence. As part of the critical assessment process, make a note on the first sheet headed “untrue statements of fact”, noting the paragraph number, the untrue fact, and your initial response.

Banking “presumptions” are statements made that appear to convey a decision already made without your input or consultation. 

Examples of banking “presumptions” include….

•“As we have not heard from you we understand that you are no longer within MARP and we have sent your case to our legal department”.

“As per your call with our advisor, we are awaiting/you have missed your first instalment in your agreed repayment arrangement and you are now outside of the MARP.”

“You may Appeal to the Ombudsman, or alternatively, you may complete a new SFS, we have included both applications with this correspondence”…. (at the point of Appealing the MARP decision)

Any such “presumptions” must be responded to in your correspondence. As part of the critical assessment process, make a note of the back of the first sheet (variable 2), noting the paragraph number, the presumptions, and your initial response.

B. Does it provide an opportunity to request information?
Usually banks appear to be requesting information from you all of the time. As such, it can feel like you are always on “the back foot”, that the bank have you “on the hop”. In contrast, asking for information you are entitled to can change the power axis, and it often proves the case that the bank do not have/do not wish to reveal/have incorrect information requested. This can advantage you in a number of ways. Firstly, it delays the banking debt collection process, particularly when you state that the clock stops until you get the information. Secondly, further information can add to your defence. Finally, it increases your negotiating strength into the future and in some cases may prove the bank uncooperative from an early stage.
Prior to and during the MARP process you may request information to assist you to be “cooperative”. Requests for information may always be introduced by stating something to the affect…

 “To assist me to provide the best application/best Appeal/make the best decision/to understand my position best…. I am requesting the following information…..”

Although you may decide to assault the bank with a barrage of data requests, it is better to use this ammunition wisely, particularly if one of your objectives is to slow down the bank’s processes and systems. There are a number of considerations regarding what you choose to request at any stage: At all stages you may usefully request for example....

• “Current, detailed accounts of all of the debts your Institution claim I owe, to include any interest payments, service charges, insurance charges, administrative charges and any other fees considered liable to me”.

• “Details of the Instruments used to calculate the sustainability or otherwise of my mortgage” (at an advanced stage such as MARP appeal, one might request: write-down funds and securitisation benefits accrued).

A detailed explanation of the factors underpinning your decision in these matters”.

• “An explanation of your decision not to offer me an alternative to X such as Interest only/full moratorium/partial write-down”.

C.  Does the correspondence comply with CCMA/MARP?

Lending institutions such as banks and building societies are bound by two statutory codes of conduct in relation to mortgages. These are the Central Bank's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) and the Consumer Protection Code 2012. The CCMA relates to primary residences, and the CPC to investment properties, credit cards etc. In this Module we shall focus on the CCMA. The CCMA requires mortgage lenders to adopt specific procedures when dealing with borrowers experiencing arrears and financial difficulties. Such procedures must be aimed at helping you as far as possible in your own particular circumstances and are called MARP.

We have posted a number of blogs on MARP and intend to post more over the coming weeks. It is important that you make yourself aware of your rights under MARP. By knowing your rights you will be able to see when you are being abused by the banks in their correspondence, Again, having made yourself familiar with your rights, make a note on your paper of where in the bank letter, the bank have failed to follow MARP.


In writing back to the bank the golden rule is "less is more". Sometimes homeowners tend to be emotional, such as angry, and this is not something that should be recorded on paper and may well convey your mental state to the bank. Why give them any extra information? Instead, simply address the matter at hand, rebutting any untruths, seeking any further information you may require and insisting on your rights under MARP and the CCMA.

On a final note, remember that if the bank is demanding that you do something in a particular time frame, or insist on phoning you, write to them and insist any time frame must be agreed and that you will communicate through written correspondence only, that is your right.

To Find out about upcoming free workshops in your area please call the National Land League on 0894740811...

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