Non tracker related, long term issues with mortgage lender. Now at informal stage of FSPO complaint but still being stonewalled by lender.

Original A

Registered User
I'm a first time poster, so my apologies if my post is a little confusing.
My husband and myself drew down on our joint mortgage with First Active in 2005. This mortgage was taken on by Ulster Bank around 2008/2009.
In 2012, we ran into some financial difficulties. We contacted Ulster Bank immediately and that's when it all started to go wrong. The list of issues are extremely long and I'm starting to realise that it's extremely difficult, as a lay person with no legal/financial background, to accurately explain the (still ongoing, eight years later) issues we're having with the bank in terms that the Ombudsman's office will take seriously.
The issues include:
1.Unauthorised direct debits taken from our account after direct debit had been cancelled and new repayment arrangements had been made.
2.Repeated discrimination against my disability. I am severely hearing impaired and despite being notified many times, in writing, not to call me, the bank have persisted in attempting to call me and then accusing us of not cooperating because I haven't taken the calls.
3. Significantly delayed responses from the bank, causing our mortgage account to go into arrears on several occasions. These were the only times our account was ever in arrears
4. Refusing our requests to avail of a lower interest rate (which was available to all customers) based on a ridiculously low "drive-by valuation" carried out by the bank.

These points represent just some of the issues. We finally lodged a complaint with FSPO in July 2019 and are just now getting to the informal stage of the process. Ulster Bank are still engaging in their behaviour of pushing us to respond within days and then taking six weeks to respond to us.

Any advice from anyone would be appreciated. I am, quite frankly, out of my depth.


Registered User
Hi Original A,

I am sorry to hear you are going through this but take ease in that now that the matter is being handled by the FSPO, your hard work and persistence to date is practically done.

You have positives going for you in that Ulster bank are regulated by the Central Bank and therefore the FSPO has jurisdiction over your complaint. In the case of the Vulture Funds this jurisdiction is only recent so the FSO don't have as much power. Thankfully, this has been amended.

They appear from what you have stated to have made very distinct errors - so there is no grey area for the FSPO to contemplate - i.e. unauthorised direct debits and delayed responses - dates on your communication and their (delayed) responses will be visible and therefore provide exact details for the FSPO.

Regarding your disability, the onus is on the institution to determine vulnerability and in your case you were front and centre with it so they didn't even have to do that. This is a no brainer. Have you requested a call log under the Freedom of Information Act? If it goes to full investigation the FSPO will request all call logs etc.

The mediation process with the FSPO is fine, their representatives are (in my opinion) extremely good at their job. They put you and ease and let you tell your story, they listen. They then do the same with the financial institution. This process can take up to 9 weeks but if the FSPO representative feels it is going nowhere they will intervene and stop it at that point making a decision to move to a full investigation. When this is effected you have a 20 working day window to submit any documentation you wish to strengthen your case. This is not exhaustive, if after the 20 days something comes to light that you would like to use you can of course do that.

Once the 20 days has passed your complaint will be submitted to the legal department of the FSPO to determine jurisdiction. If this is established the FSPO will then begin a full investigation where they will request any files they deem necessary to make a decision on the complaint. This can be protracted process but in my opinion worth it as one way or the other it brings closure.

Have you taken time to review the FSPO's decision database - they have just published their decisions for January to June 2020 so it's very up to date and it will give you a better understanding of how they operate and the decisions they make.

Also, in the past the FSPO was more focussed on actual tangible errors i.e. wrong interest rates etc but what is coming to light more is where Financial Institutions are treating people really badly and they are adjudicating on this also. The Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears states :

'This Code sets out how mortgage lenders (referred to in this document as “lenders”) must treat borrowers in or facing mortgage arrears, with due regard to the fact that each case of mortgage arrears is unique and needs to be considered on its own merits. This Code sets out the framework that lenders must use when dealing with borrowers in mortgage arrears or in pre-arrears. All such cases must be handled sympathetically and positively by the lender, with the objective at all times of assisting the borrower to meet his/her mortgage obligations. This Code acknowledges that it is in the interests of both the lender and the borrower to address financial difficulties as speedily and as effectively as circumstances allow.

The full document is here - it might be helpful to read if you haven't already.

Stay positive and try to put it to the back of your mind, you are nearly at full circle. It takes a lot of resilience to stay the course and can be utterly exhausting and soul destroying as you feel as if you are going up against a giant. Well done for standing up for yourself. I wish you the very best of luck, stay in touch and let us know how you get on. I am happy to help further if I can at all.