Robert.I don’t think we talk about debt enough and I want to commend you very much for coming on camera to talk about a situation that you found yourself in.
You are a commercial portfolio landlord yourself but debt can affect people in many, many different ways. Tell us your story.
Well, I had a two-sided problem. My biggest issue was that I have 28 commercial tenants and all of a sudden we were faced with 50% vacancies and while that was happening we worked awfully hard to sort that out.
And we sorted that out, and we survived that that awful time around 2012 when the recession was really biting, but the issue that I really needed help with, and I left it too long, really – I left it longer than I should have – was my own home.
So, all of a sudden, you know, I’d paid, sort of, certainly 700,000 quid for a house, put some money down on it, and I had £490,000 worth of debt, which I’d been able to service when the revenues were coming in for my commercial portfolio.
But, all of a sudden that was drying up and I had a wife and two small kids at the time, and all of a sudden I’m facing a position where I’m in a house with debt and I can’t afford to be there and I can’t afford to service the debt.
Well, you know, getting into a situation like that, I can only imagine the stress you were under. How did you kind of deal with that stress? Were you sort of semi in denial about your situation, or just Just burying your head in the sand, or just hoping that something might change that would enable you to stay in your home?
Well, you know you deal with the priorities and the priorities of the time were: keep the commercial portfolio alive, hold onto all the commercial properties, restructure, re-let and so on, and I did that, and we did a good job.
When you have a debt hanging over you it’s ridiculous to bury your head in the sand.
The only thing that’s of any merit is to grab the problem and deal with it.
Now, we were stressed. It was there. My wife and I were aware of it.
It was, you know, it affected our sleep, it affected our daytime..
And your health?
It probably did, it certainly affected our ability to relax.
So what I did was I went to see my solicitor for a chat because, you know,
he’s a trusted friend, and he suggested Negative Equity UK and so I called them and actually that’s when the pain started to ease.
Because as soon as I called them, the conversation seemed simple, the girl that we talked to, a lovely girl, asked me a few questions, put me at ease, and actually it started to feel like a little bit of healing.
But, above all, I was doing something about it.
Yeah, you were taking positive action.
Yes, so I suddenly felt – I mean the problem was still there, but I suddenly felt that I was empowered because I was doing something about it and I felt as if if anybody was going to help me it would be these guys.
That must have been very reassuring when you had that initial conversation.
But how did the company actually help you get out of this horrendous situation that you found yourself in?
Well, they asked me a few questions. I gave them honest truthful answers, I gave them the paperwork that they needed and they started to negotiate on my behalf,
but they did something else – they reassured me.
And they kept me informed about what they were doing. And that was enormously important
for me, because I’d been I’d been in the dark. And all of a sudden they were telling me what they were doing, how they were doing it and how it could result, and it wasn’t always going to be a great result.
I mean these things – it’s a negotiation – these things can go one way or the other, but it got better and better, and we started to relax a bit more and they sorted it out!
So they were able to deal with almost half a million quids worth of debt and we got rid of it for a very small amount of money, and we got rid of it in a very reasonable time scale – less than a year I believe.
And It felt like, it sort of felt hard to believe. We have a banker in the family and I confided in him as to what had happened and he couldn’t believe what they’d achieved for us.
That’s fantastic. So you’ve been able to move on from this very challenging situation. You’ve kept your commercial portfolio and I believe you’ve got one other buy-to-let property.
Have you been able to kind of move forward okay from from that situation?
Yeah, we’ve got a new home. We’ve got a new life. We’ve got kids growing up now and some sort of financial security. We love what happened because it just took us out of the darkness and into the light.
It was like it was just the thing we needed to give us our lives back. So I sort of feel as if I almost owe my solicitor a beer – but I owe a lot more to Negative Equity UK because, you know, that’s what we think about when we can afford to go on holiday,
We sort of go, you know, we think “that was a very good decision”.
I know in times of stress sometimes, and I’m speaking from personal experience myself, sometimes somebody comes to your aid and it almost feels like they’re your guardian angel and that they were just the right person at the right time to comeand assist you in your your darkest hour.
Sounds like that’s how you feel about the company?
Yeah it is, you know there are so many people that call you during the day if you’re at homeand they promise you this, that and the other thing – so I think the nation is skeptical about companies that promise that this, that and the other thing, and that’s why I thought it was really important to come on here because I went for professional guidance from my solicitor.
I didn’t want to be dealing with people who would rip me off and they pointed, he pointed me to Negative Equity UK and from the moment I called them actually, the healing started.
And they fixed it with me.
And actually what they do is quite interesting because they teach you how to deal with the situation, as well as doing a lot of work in the background.
And, they are a big big room full of nice people which really helps.
So, just to clarify again, that Negative Equity UK is part of the group – The Fairfield Capital Group, and they offer this same service to landlords as well – a very specialist service for landlords.
Just as we kind of close it out here, what advice would you give to somebody who is, you know really struggling with debt? Whether it be a landlord or a homeowner?
What what advice would you give them? Because I think one of the things I picked up on from our interview is, that you took action quite quickly. You didn’t let it get worse and worse and worse.
Well, I mean you have to do it to save your own life. What’s the point in struggling with anything.
Find an expert in whatever it is. I mean if you had a burst pipe you’d get a plumber.
So if you have a debt problem and you ignore it, it’s not going to go away. The simple thing to do is find somebody who has a strong reputation, a strong track record, call them immediately and have that conversation, get the process moving, get the file opened.
And actually time is of the essence in these things. The lending institutions say that, the banks say that, the legal people say that, get on with it – move quickly because these solutions will not be around forever.
It’s important to get in and get the best advice early.
I agree with you and the earlier that you do get debt advice the more options there are
to you. The later you leave it then there’s going to be less solutions.
So, Robert I really want again to say thank for having the courage to come and talk on camera about your debt situation.
Do you think that this topic? You know, we do know it is a little bit stigmatized, do you think that there should be more coverage of these kind of issues that people face and also, of course the solutions that are out there for them?
The more information that’s available to people the better. I think, I don’t know how regulated this industry is, but if you find a good provider and you can see and talk to people who’ve had good service. I mean, why wouldn’t you take that step?
So I would say, you know, have a chat with with the professionals, and just get on with it, because to suffer alone is lunacy.
No, I agree. And we should point out that Landlord Debt Advisory / Fairfield Capital
Group is in fact regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is I believe, the only company in the UK that is regulated to undertake this very specialist kind of work.
So thank you for joining me here Robert.
Good luck with everything that you do in the future in your property world.
Are you in a similar position to Robert? Have a free confidential chat with one of our professional advisers now, and see if we can help resolve your property debt problems. Call now on 0161 660 4403.