Battling: Julian Watts claims that Mortgage Express was sloppy
A leading lender has admitted to making a series of careless errors in court documents used to try to evict borrowers from their homes.
Customers have accused Mortgage Express – the former Bradford and Bingley home loan arm now owned by the Government – of being slapdash in its approach to highly sensitive repossessions.
Julian Watts, who resisted being evicted by Mortgage Express from his Surrey home, says the amount of his loan was incorrectly stated, as was the interest rate.
Former policeman Wes Wright, a buy-to-let landlord, says Mortgage Express wrongly said he had cashflow problems that led to him becoming unable to repay one of his loans.
The pair believe the errors are symptomatic of a wider malaise at UK banks. Lenders are supposed to take great care in assessing individual circumstances before embarking on a repossession.
But Watts and Wright believe banks have been churning out court documents as if they were on a production line. They are calling for others who feel they have suffered in the same way to come forward.
Watts, a business consultant, says that he offered seven proposals to Mortgage Express to clear the loan on his home, but the lender still went to court, unsuccessfully, to repossess the house.
Mortgage Express admitted to ‘shortcomings’ in some of the documentation but said this did not affect the court rulings which were based on the ‘broader circumstances’ of the case.
In a separate duspute, Wright – who won a bravery award in 2002 when he tried to rescue a child from a burning car – went through a series of proceedings with Mortgage Express over a number of buy-to-lets he had bought. He says Mortgage Express also ignored his efforts to repay his debts.
Similar complaints have surfaced in the US, where banks were fined $25 billion in 2012 over shoddily assembled court documents that appear to have been ‘robo-signed’ – robotically signed off without proper checking.
The Mail on Sunday has reviewed hundreds of pages of evidence put together by Watts and Wright, which has been submitted to police, regulators, MPs and the Treasury.
According to a handwriting expert we consulted, signatures appear to have been dashed off in a hurry. Adam Brand, a graphologist who gives evidence in forensic cases, also said that two Mortgage Express signatures in the name of different people actually seem to be by the same person.
Mortgage Express declined to comment on the veracity of the signatures but said it strongly denies any abuse of court processes.
Watts has also accused Lloyds of failings in the way it repossessed a holiday home he and his wife Helen had in Dorset. He said: ‘Unless you have been through it you can’t convey to people how violating and horrendous it is. We knew when it was occurring there was something horribly wrong.’
Lloyds denies that it ignored the Watts’ attempts to repay the loan. It added it had checked all signatures on court documents and that they were by the named person.