Barclays 'refuses' to help customer who was controlled by abusive partner

A Barclays customer has hit out at the bank and accused it of refusing to help her as she dealt with the aftermath of a controlling relationship and partner. One woman, who has had her name changed, spoke out to the Guardian.

She says her partner of many years - who she had daughters with - left in 2020, leaving her with a joint mortgage. She managed to keep her head afloat -barely - but by 2023 the rates and payments had become increasingly unaffordable.

“The banks always tell you to contact them if you’re struggling, so I called to explain what had happened – how I had been left as the sole breadwinner. I asked to be put on an interest-only deal, or to extend the loan period for six months to give me enough time to sell the house or find another solution,” she told the newspaper.

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But she went on: “The bank wouldn’t, or couldn’t, see that he was using this as a way to get back at me – that I was, in effect, being financially abused. I provided a letter from my doctor to that effect but they ignored it."

She says as soon as she applied for a new smaller mortgage with another lender, Barclay applied default notices to her credit score - leaving the deal pulled. She fumed: “I must have spent more than 100 hours on the phone trying to resolve this. I have been a customer with Barclays for over 30 years, with a mortgage for over 15, and have never, ever, been in debt apart from my recent dilemma.

“Staff have been dismissive from the start, and I am so angry that they have done this to me. Just this week Barclaycard cut my credit limit from £4,000 to £200 as a result of this.” Barclays said: “We do not want customers to have cause to complain, and sympathise with our customer who has had some difficult personal circumstances. We agreed a reduced payment plan for an initial six months in August 2023 to provide our customer with the time to reach a conclusion with the joint mortgage holder, and have kept the reduced plan in place beyond six months.

“We accept that there may be occasions people can’t meet their contractual monthly payments, but we will always highlight the impact on credit ratings if contractual monthly payments can’t be met in full. When the payment plan was set up, we wrote to explain that the difference between the contractual monthly payment, and the payment plan, would accrue as arrears.

“The letter also set out that we would continue to report account information to the credit reference agencies, which may affect our customer’s ability to obtain future credit. We apologise that some interactions with our service team have not been to the high standards we set and, where appropriate, redress has been paid to the customer for any distress or inconvenience caused.”

Sam Smethers, Interim CEO of Surviving Economic Abuse, said: “Current mortgage rules harm victim-survivors by requiring the consent of the abuser to end or change the joint mortgage, which enables their continued control. Perpetrators use this to plunge victim-survivors into financial hardship by refusing to pay their agreed share, move to a better interest rate or payment plan, or sell up.

“We’ve heard of victim-survivors who’ve had to choose between putting food on the table or paying the mortgage because of the abuser’s actions. The cost-of-living crisis has only made it harder for them. Skyrocketing mortgage rates have led to some survivors having their homes repossessed because the perpetrator refuses to pay their share or sell.

“We need all political parties to commit to working with the financial services sector to stop this form of economic abuse so victim-survivors aren’t trapped living in fear of ending up homeless. We need clearer guidance and regulation on how mortgage lenders can better support victim-survivors, as well as legal change to free survivors from being trapped in mortgages by the abuser. We know that a number of mortgage lenders agree with us and also want to see change.”