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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2006, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
Debt diary: Repossession threat
Sayara Beg
Sayara Beg wants to reach a deal with her creditors
Thousands of people in the UK are struggling with ever-increasing levels of personal debt.

BBC News website reader Sayara Beg, 36, a freelance IT consultant from East London, has been telling her story of dealing with debt.

With the birth of her second child a matter of weeks away, Sayara's property is threatened with repossession.

Diary entry fourteen

My debt counsellor sends me a blank token payment book.

I am to fill in the spaces making the token offer of about 1 and I tick the box which asks the creditor to send me a bank book for making the payments.

There is also a space to explain how I came to be in this situation. I use this to update my creditors with the fact that I am suing a previous employer for sex discrimination.

At the same time I write a letter to my mortgage lenders, outlining my new budget drawn up with my debt adviser.

I also enclose a letter and another copy of the maternity certificate. I ask to be left alone for the fortnight around the birth of my child.

Kensington Mortgages get in touch. They have almost been unique amongst my lenders in replying to my letters.

I realise now after several months of trying to negotiate with my creditors, and with the birth of my child due, I need to take drastic action

They say that as I have been in arrears for two months, I must accept a visit from an appointed debt counsellor.

The counsellor will review my situation and report back to Kensington. However, I will have to pay for the privilege - a 100 charge.

I have no option but to say yes, despite the fact that I am getting free help from the Consumer Credit Counselling Service.

I call Kensington's debt counsellor and an appointment is arranged for a week's time.

I have decided to put my buy-to-let property on the market. I realise now after several months of trying to negotiate with my creditors, and with the birth of my child due, I need to take drastic action.

I had hoped that the property would be my pension but it looks like I will be back to square one.

However, I have to get my skates on as my debts are closing in on me.

Diary entry fifteen

Mortgage Express, which has the mortgage on the buy-to-let property I have up for sale, has threatened repossession unless I pay back the arrears.

They also say that I have not been responding to their warning letters.

I get on the phone.

They admit that a computer error at their end meant the letters were going to the wrong address.

Again I explain my history - how I lost my job after telling my employer that I was pregnant, and they agree to stop the action for a month.

I also inform them that I have decided to fight a case of unfair dismissal on the grounds of sex discrimination.

I ask what will happen after a month? The man in customer services explains that the account will be handed over to a solicitor to begin repossession proceedings and the charges associated with that will be added to my account.

I say it is highly unlikely that I will find a buyer and complete a sale in four weeks, and can't my arrears just be added to the balance to be cleared when the sale completes?

CONCERNED ABOUT DEBT?
National Debtline: A free, confidential and independent service funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and the credit industry. Tel: 0808 808 4000
Business Debtline: Provides a free telephone debt counselling service for self-employed and small businesses, partly funded by banks. Tel: 0800 197 6026
Consumer Credit Counselling Service: Funded entirely by the credit industry, the service offers advice to people in debt. Tel: 0800 138 1111
Citizens Advice: Offers free, independent and confidential advice from more than 700 locations throughout the UK.

He tells me that Financial Services Authority regulations say that Mortgage Express can't do that, and so it is not an option.

The only time a repossession action can stop is when contracts are exchanged.

Up until then, Mortgage Express can pursue the action.

I start to worry about how this is going to affect the sale of my buy-to-let property.

He, sympathetically, says that I should contact Citizens Advice for legal representation and he points out that these proceedings don't happen very quickly, so I may have more time than I realise.

He also offers me the option to consider simply handing the keys to Mortgage Express. But I can't see how that's going to help me in the long run.

The process of speaking to the debt departments of my lenders would be so much easier if one person took ownership of a case - a sort of account manager - who I could develop a relationship with.

It is so difficult trying to talk to a different person each time I call, and reminding them of my situation and asking them to read the letters that are on file.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by the BBC unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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