They're ordinary families fighting extraordinary battles just to survive. But now there is an audacious plan to stop the flood of foreclosures and ease mortgage stress across the country.
When Shane Williams' home handyman business went bust, life took an unexpected turn for his wife Ellen and their young family. "It was gut wrenching", Ellen said.
The couple started falling behind in their Commonwealth Bank mortgage and the surprise arrival of their youngest daughter only put more strain on the family's finances. "We were under the assumption that the hardship agreement payment that they had set for us was, the remainder of our mortgage was just going to get tacked on to the actual loan figure", Ellen said.
But it wasn't and they spiralled further into debt. "In February they said we're going to give you one more hardship arrangement and then we're going to start foreclosure process. We went what are you talking about foreclosure and they said you're $16,500 in arrears", Ellen added.
On top of that the couple were slugged an early termination penalty when they sold one house to get into another home -- instead of transferring the loan the bank issued them a new one and charged them $16,000 -- it was bad for the Williams but good money for the bank.
Now despite having $100,000 equity in their Canberra home, the bank won't extend the loan term to give them some breathing space and they're $10,000 behind.
But today at least there's some good news. Wayne Ormond, Chairman and founder of Refund Home Loans has stepped in to help the family get back on their feet. "So what we're going to do is we're going to fix up this arrears, we're going to pay it down over the next six months for you and then put you back on an even keel", Wayne said.
"This is really getting my blood boiling because these people have worked so hard and they're not even being given a chance really. This bank could have made it so simple by extending the term of the loan and they haven't done it", Wayne said.
Wayne was in Melbourne today "because we need the big end of town to help out. It's so important that we get to these people before it's too late and we need the big end of town to support this. It makes so much sense -- when somebody loses their home it affects their life forever", Wayne said.
It's a big gesture from a big man. Wayne is creating a fighting fund. "It's charter will be to save people. It might only take a small donation, a grant to them five, ten thousands dollars to stop the bank taking their house", Wayne said.
It has the potential to stop thousands of foreclosures and help people like Ann Maree Stewart and her family. "Things started to spiral out of control then we ended up about $7 - $9,000 behind and with the interest accumulating it is now become $22 nearly $23,000", Ann Maree said.
Ann Maree, husband Darren and the family call Lilydale in Melbourne's north east home.
The family mortgage is $22,000 in arrears. Their small roofing business didn't survive, Ann Maree has $10,.000 but it is still not enough. "We spent so much money putting our heart and soul into the business we thought would work -- and it didn't work", she said.
The family had next to no income for six months but they never stopped paying their mortgage however, they often fell short. "When we did get a bit of money we put it to the mortgage but it just went to interest the debt itself never cleared", she said.
Because of the mounting debt, Darren's gone back on an apprenticeship. "My wage is going straight into the mortgage. We haven't skipped a mortgage for a long time, a payment -- we've been doing pretty well", Darren said.
Instead of extending their loan by three years the ANZ Bank passed the Stewarts file to their lawyers, making it impossible for them ever to get ahead.
Like the Williams they have plenty of equity and now fifteen hundred dollars a month in legal fees on top of a four hundred dollar a week mortgage. "I will need twelve thousand dollars or they foreclose on the home -- they come and take our home", Ann Mare said.
Again, to the delight of the family, Wayne Ormond came to the rescue .. "Lets talk about what we can do to fix this. What we'll do is we'll pay up the difference between the arrears", Wayne said.
"Every family we save, means that they can stay in their home and let me tell you the alternative is not worth thinking about", he said.
"This is why we need this fighting fund -- look at Darren and Ann maree, A prime example of where the bank has gone really hard on them for no reason. That little bit of money we gave them, the huge difference it has made", Wayne added.
"Absolutely stay tuned because there is a lot more to come. We have just started on this crusade", Wayne said.
For further information:
Refund Home Loans
Aussie Debt Rescue
Credit Ombudsman Service
Financial Ombudsman Service
Statement from Commonwealth Bank
Commonwealth Bank would be happy to look into claims that our customer has unnecessarily been charged on a previous home loan facility with the Bank