Woman: So, how are you?
Woman: Would you like a tea or coffee?
Sarah: Yes, tea.
Sarah: No thanks. I have to sell my house and I really don’t want to. I have been busy reluctantly packing so your invitation to have me over was perfect timing, it means I can have a break from it all.
Woman: Why are you selling if you’re not happy about it? Has it got something to do with your business closing?
Sarah: Yes, it’s a long story, but I will try and keep it brief. You know how I went into business with another person, well we needed to borrow some money to operate the business and got approval for a loan from the bank. One of the conditions of the agreement was that we gave the bank security for the loan. So this meant that my house was put up for security if by any chance we defaulted on our repayments. So my house was put up as security, even though both our names were included in the business. Then my business partner withdrew large sums from the bank and has disappeared! I was completely shocked, it was really devastating.
Woman: That’s awful!
Sarah: I know! That’s why I went to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Woman: What is the Financial Ombudsman Service?
Sarah: Well, it’s known as FOS. Somebody recommended it to me. It is a service provided to individuals who are perhaps unhappy with a financial service they are dealing with. For example dealing with a financial institution with regards to a credit card, home loan repayments, other types of loans, insurance companies, you name it. And for whatever reason if you are unhappy with the service provider you can seek help from FOS, they are great.
Woman: Are they expensive?
Sarah: No, it’s a free service. I’ve got their brochure here, would you like to have a look?
Woman: Yeah, sure. Let’s take a seat at the table, it’s probably a little more comfortable.
Woman: So, how does this work?
Sarah: Ok, well first of all you need to contact your bank, either by going into the bank or by sending a letter of complaint. I went in person and made my complaint about the process and told them I felt it was unfair. You need to give the financial institution 45 days to respond, and if you are not satisfied with that, then you are entitled to make a complaint to FOS.
Woman: So, what did the bank have to say about it?
Sarah: The bank said I must continue making repayments, even though my business partner has gone. When there was the two of us we both made payments. Now I am expected to make the payments not only for myself but for my partner as well, or I will lose my house. It’s not fair.
Woman: So how do you contact FOS?
Sarah: Their information is available on the internet, there are a few ways of getting in touch with them. You can fill in a form online, or print off a hard copy and fill it out then post it in, or call on the phone. If you are deaf, you can call via the National Relay Service on TTY or via VRS using your computer. I filled out the form directly online.
Woman: Were there lots of questions expected of you online?
Sarah: No, it wasn’t too much, just simple questions like where you organised the loan from, name of the financial institution and the specifics around the complaint. There is no guarantee that they will take up your complaint. They have certain rules they need to follow to decide whether or not they can continue to assist. They were able to help me. FOS took my complaint and informed the bank about my dispute. Usually what happens is that FOS will deal directly with the bank to seek an outcome on the person’s behalf. But if that is not successful, they include all parties in an attempt to mediate and come up with some kind of resolution.
Woman: What if FOS is biased towards the financial institution? The bank in your case?
Sarah: No, FOS is completely independent and take a neutral stance on the matter. They are required to follow codes of practice and various laws.
Woman: Sounds good.
Sarah: Taking everything into account, both parties are to be treated fairly.
Woman: But I still don’t understand why you have to sell your house?
Sarah: Well, regardless, the bank still requires repayments. Obviously I can’t continue to make them on my own since my business partner is gone, I couldn’t possible continue to make the co-contributions on my own. So the FOS case manager asked to look at the loan agreement, bank statements and mortgage documents. But they also wanted to hear my side of the story. They listened to everything I had to say and explained two reasons why I had to pay. I had signed that if my business partner defaulted, I would be responsible for the repayments, which I can’t, and also that the bank had the right to sell my house to recoup their money.
Woman: Isn’t that what the bank said to you? Why did you need FOS?
Sarah: If I didn’t contact FOS, the situation could have been much worse. Once I lodged my dispute, the bank had to stop their action against me. They could have sold my house for much less to get their money.
Woman: That must have taken some of the pressure off you.
Sarah: Yes! Now I can sell the house myself. I get to choose the real estate agent and arrange the inspections. I’m so thankful to FOS and their great work in negotiating. I’ve been so worried, but with FOS’s help, I can now focus on rebuilding the business and getting on with my life. I can focus on rebuilding the business and getting on with my life.
For more information:
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