Disabled Effingham man to be kicked out of home of 51 years over bank dispute

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HOMELESS BOUND: James Nicholls is set to be kicked out of his home along with dogs Lassie, Sheba and Abbey

By Dorking Advertiser  |  Posted: March 24, 2015

 CRDC20150309A-004_C Photo David Cook

  • A DISABLED man from Effingham is awaiting the imminent arrival of bailiffs to kick him out of the home he has lived in for 51 years after he lost a two-year court battle with a high street bank.

James Nicholls, 58, is to be forced from his home in Norwood Close after his landlord stopped paying the mortgage on the house, forcing a court to hand over possession to Santander in 2014.

The former Effingham parish councillor says he was unaware of the missed payments and had continued to pay rent to his landlord in the belief he was entitled to stay at the house under his tenancy agreement.

However, Santander has claimed this agreement was invalid and, despite Mr Nicholls’ friends clubbing together to raise £220,000, two offers to buy the property have been refused by the bank.

Mr Nicholls told the Advertiser: “I’ve done everything I can to stay in the home I grew up in with my family but Santander seems intent to consign me to the street with the obvious consequence to my dogs. I’ve been offered a place in a homeless shelter in Guildford, miles from friends and family, but I’ve lived in Effingham my whole life and that is where I need to be.

“I’ve offered to buy the house, I’ve offered to rent from them, I’ve offered to pay the missing arrears but Santander just is not interested, even though it was them who accepted a bad mortgage.”

In 2007, Mr Nicholls ran into financial difficulties and sold his property to an associate in return for an agreement that he could remain there until his retirement at the age of 65.

A year later the property was remortgaged with Santander, but payments stopped in 2012. Mr Nicholls only became aware of the mounting arrears when a notice of possession proceedings arrived at his home.

The landlord did not contest the order but Mr Nicholls, who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident 40 years ago, did as he believed he had the right to remain at the house under the tenancy agreement. The case dragged on for nearly two years with nine hearings and, after Santander was finally awarded possession in December, Mr Nicholls attempted to negotiate to buy the house.

“They would not give any guide price at all,” he said. “Our offer of £190,000 was rejected in 24 hours and a second offer of £220,000 was turned down in only 31 minutes.

“A building contractor told me it needs £80,000 of work done on it as the house has no central heating, no double-glazing, the roof is knackered and the electrics all need doing.

“We thought it was a reasonable offer as an estate agent said after it was refurbished it could command a price of about £290,000, but they obviously had no interest in a fair negotiation.”

Response from Santander

Initially, Mr Nicholls had no tenancy agreement and was not obliged to pay rent. He was advised by his solicitors to enter into a Deed of Trust but declined to do so. Mr Nicholls also signed the consent to mortgage form for Santander.

Ultimately, however, the landlord issued his own possession proceedings and it was a result of those proceedings that a tenancy agreement was entered into.

As the judge has made clear to Mr Nicholls, the tenancy agreement cannot bind Santander. It could only come into existence after the property was owned by the landlord and he only ever owned the property subject to a mortgage.

No-one invited Mr Nicholls to make offers to purchase the property. Our initial valuation of the property came to £300,000-plus.

Mr Nicholls has stated that he considers the property to be in a poor state of repair but this contradicts a letter sent by his solicitor in which they stated that he has renovated the property.

We are sympathetic to Mr Nicholls’ position and the distress caused by being in this situation. Unfortunately, the landlord fell behind on his mortgage repayments which are secured against the property and the house is at risk of being repossessed.

Following any eventual repossession of a property, we would instruct an independent valuation to confirm a fair price. Mr Nicholls could then make an offer on the property after it was taken into possession and offered with vacant possession