Imagine the shock of discovering your bank had reported you to a credit agency due to a financial arrangement of which you were unaware.
We would like to share this story as it’s a good example of the difference a highly specialised, financial services business like VHM can make to your financial situation.
We recently reviewed the finances of a self-employed client wanting to check if there was a better home loan available. The client had been a loyal customer of one of the ‘big four’ banks for over 30 years. So, you can imagine his surprise when we discovered he had been reported to a credit agency for being over his mortgage limit, and behind on his repayments, for three months. Even more worrying, we had recently run a credit check on his behalf less than 9 months earlier for a car loan that had revealed an excellent credit score.
To find out was going on we started asking questions and making phone calls to the bank involved and the financial regulator. We soon found the clues that revealed the extent of our client’s predicament.
In May 2020, he had requested COVID-19 relief from his bank as his business was significantly impacted by the pandemic. The bank granted 3 months reprieve and recommenced his regular repayments after that time had elapsed.
But after going through the bank’s documentation, we realised the bank had not implemented COVID-19 relief but instead given him a ‘hardship agreement’. This is a very different arrangement. Under COVID-19 relief packages, repayments to banks are paused for 3-6 months and what is owed is added to the loan balance. Under a ‘hardship agreement’ your repayments are also paused but you must repay the entire balance of the monies owed before the agreed date.
Our client, thinking he was receiving COVID-19 relief and unaware of the hardship agreement, had not made this repayment. So, the bank reported him and did not let him know.
We met with our highly distressed client to explain the seriousness of this issue. No major bank would extend him credit with a report showing a negative repayment history. But this is where VHM’s ability to talk to financial institutions and understand the nuances of the industry came to the fore. We speak bank fluently!
We immediately developed a strategy that involved literally sitting side by side with the client and making calls to the bank with follow up emails. We argued for weeks that the bank had not clearly explained the crucial difference between hardship and COVID relief. We explained that providing our client with hardship as opposed to COVID relief was a grave error of judgement. We argued that an ordinary person is not necessarily going to understand the nuances in legal language (as used by banks) stating the difference between what was offered to our client and what was understood. We also made the point very strongly the ‘duty of care’ owed to the client by the bank under the current legislation.
For two weeks the bank responded by sending automated messages to our client denying our request for a reversal of the adverse credit report. But after persisting and finding the right people to talk to at the bank, we finally received written confirmation that our client’s repayment history would be rectified with 30 days. The process took six long, intense weeks.
We cannot overestimate the severe impact this had on our clients financial and mental wellbeing. But it could have been so much worse had not been involved.
Not bigger. Better.