Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Are There Words?

I ask myself this question hoping there is some kind of answer waiting in the dark recesses of my diseased mind.

I am angry. Angry in way that actually frightens me on a basal level. Angry in a way that could easily result in bodily damage ... to whom, I can not say ... actually -  I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you (too).

I October of 2009, my husband and I came to a conclusion that, for me, was bordering cataclysmic. With a string of very bad luck, some desperate decisions (that actually made the overall picture worse) and some financial baggage from my hubby's past rearing its ugly head, we were left with little other choice but to file for bankruptcy. 

I am a mortgage professional. I counsel people on their credit EVERY DAY. That is my job. How could I look at bankruptcy in any way other than a shameful failure? How could I sit behind my desk and look people in the eye - all the while preaching to them the importance of solid credit practices - knowing full well I was a complete hypocrite? I had failed.

The shame of this has been a hirsute I have been wearing around for all the world to see - long, ugly tendrils of coarse, greasy failure.

Back in October, when making this monumental decision, we had to also determine what to do about our house. We had no equity in it due to the fact that I frantically struggled (in vain) to save us from succumbing to our creditors by refinancing and adding a second mortgage. A move that, had it worked, would have been a stroke of genius ... however, it did not - and quickly became yet another bad choice in a long line of mistakes that led us to ruin. At the onset, the "Estate Manager" for the firm we dealt with sat in front of us and looked over our information. She tallied our debts against our assets and incoming funds and came to the conclusion that we had very limited options. (Uh ... thank you, Captain Obvious!) We asked questions. A thousand or more. Questions about the length of a bankruptcy, the criteria one must meet, the reporting, the responsibility of "the bankrupt" as they now refer to us. We sat with this woman while she figured out our total net income per month and compared it to the provincial standard. We asked her: Based on this information, what is the likelihood that we will be released after the nine month period was up? She told us (on THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS) that as long as our income did not increase and we filed our paperwork and paid the monthly fees as required, we would be eligible for release after the initial 9 month period. So, we decided to keep our house (even though it is the root of the problem) as there would be only the one winter to contend with.

In April (that would be a month and a half ago for anyone keeping track) we received a letter stating that our trustee was preparing for the absolute discharge of our bankruptcy that was to occur prior to the middle of July 2010. We had been submitting our paperwork and paying the monthly fee without fail, but they were missing a couple of odds and ends that we needed to submit - which we did. Nothing that changed our income in any way but to decrease it slightly. We attended our last counseling session with our "EM" on the 27th of May ... we sat across a table from her and asked her point blank what the date of our discharge would be. She said July 12th. The woman had our entire file sitting in front of her ... had HAD our file for the past 8 solid months.

On June 10th, we received another letter in the mail from this "EM". The letter was dated May 26th. The day BEFORE our last meeting with this twat. In this letter, there was some startling news. We had surplus income. (The same as we had the day we signed the original documents) Because of said surplus income, we not only were NOT going to be discharged after the 9 month period we would now be paying DOUBLE the monthly amount for the next 12 months.

So ... to recap:

Signed banko docs Oct 2009 ... making risky decision to keep the house and suffer through for 9 months. **note, if we opt to let the house go now, we will have to file for a second bankruptcy as it can not be included in the one we are currently in ... and someone with two bankruptcies can essentially never qualify for any sort of sensible financing again ... I'm not even sure if "Tony the Tuna" lends to 2nd timers.

Was told in no uncertain terms that so long as our income did not "dramatically increase" (note the quotes) that we would qualify for the 9 month discharge.

March 2010 Our income dramatically DE-creases... after Hubs is laid off and goes to contract position.

April 2010 A letter is penned by our em/trustee stating they were in the process of preparing our discharge.

May 26, 2010 A letter is penned by our em/trustee detailing the reasons why we will not only NOT be discharged for at least another 12 months (on top of the 9 served) but that they are now doubling our monthly amount payable, but not mailed.

May 27, 2010 ... One day later, the person that supposedly wrote said letter, sits across a table from me, my husband and our youngest daughter, looks us in the eye and says we'll be done in July.

June 09, 2010 - TWO WEEKS after the latter was dated, we received it.

At this point in time, to say that I lost my mind would be somewhat of an understatement. Hubs and I sat down and mapped out every penny of income we had received since October 1st. We got it all organized in a nice neat spread sheet and forwarded it - along with copies of all the pay stubs, etc that should already have been in our file. I sent this info to our "EM" (and I can assure you I have some much more colorful names to call her than that) on Thursday, June 10/10. I followed up with a call and email on Friday, June 11/10 ... and again with an email yesterday - Monday, June 14/10. Below, you will find her email reply (which came at 4:50 pm) to my frantic pleas:

This amended calculation means that no arrears are payable, but there is still a requirement for an additional payment period of 12 months, pursuant to the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Directive. Your initial documents reported a surplus amount so the likelihood of extended payment would have been discussed at your first assessment meeting when you were given a copy of the Standards. 
Um - no, it fucking wasn't ... quite the exact opposite, you might say. In fact, we'll throw caution to the wind and let's DO say, shall we? WE ASKED YOU. Correct me if I am mistaken, but don't you people have to take a pretty heavy course load to become 'estate managers' and 'trustees'? I would think we could agree that there are reasons why that might be the case ... like perhaps the intricacies of the bankruptcy process might just be slightly beyond the everyday knowledge of Jane and John Public. Am I incorrect with this assumption?

So, I uh ... lost my shit ... and this time, it was still within business hours. I called their office. It was 4:53pm. I was told that the office closes at 5:00pm and that I would need to call back during business hours. (R U FUCKING KIDDING ME???) I said "funny, my watch clearly indicates 4:53pm. There are 7 minutes left of your business day, and I want to speak to someone that can explain to me how your firm's gross negligence in performing their end of my bankruptcy can somehow have a lasting, negative effect on my financial health?"

So I was put on hold. When someone finally picked up, he did not identify himself and he was taking a pretty hard line with me. Given the fact that I was sitting about 3 degrees under homicidal, it wasn't his smartest decision of the day. Turns out he was one of the firm's trustees. He actually (to my surprise, in fact) changed his tune fairly quickly after I launched on him like a fat camp detainee on a smorgasbord. Honestly, I felt like an idiot the way I was ranting and raving - but the reality remains that they have fucked us over pretty good here.

We left it at him looking at our file first thing in the morning and getting back to me by phone the next day ... that would be today. (Alas, my phone has not borne such fruit to this point.) I drove home last evening in a fit of rage. I do not recall the drive. I do not recall anything save the blood red curtain that descended over my vision. When I got home, I walked in and Hubs was standing there waiting for me - I had sent him the email from the trustee. He started to talk and then after one glance at me, opened his arms where I promptly dissolved into a sputtering geyser of tears.

It was not a nice evening in my house.

This morning, after a highly restless night, I came into work to face a mountain of bullshit of Narci's making.  I've been feeling like flinging myself into a wood chipper for most of the past 12 - 15 hours. I know that there are many, much worse scenarios in a lifetime to overcome, but this was blatantly THEIR fault. This delay would mean we will not qualify to renegotiate our mortgage when it renews - which means continuing at much higher payments than otherwise necessary. It means we can't replace our car - which is in really rough shape and is 11 years old. It means that I have to break a promise to my kids regarding a trip we were going to take this summer.

It sucks ... donkey balls.

Then ... I am on the phone with Hubs and another email comes in from our "EM":

Ed and I have been reviewing the Directive to see if there is an alternative option to calculate for possible surplus income. When amendments to bankruptcy legislation came in force in September, some of the Directives were adjusted accordingly and, as with a lot of new things, further revision must be made as it is put to the test in "real life". At this point there are a couple areas that may be open to interpretation. If we look at your situation as if you had filed separate assignments, it would appear that no further surplus would be payable individually. We are prepared to apply this principle to your household situation and allow the automatic discharge to take effect on July 8th. Any creditor or the Superintendent of Bankruptcy has the right to object to your discharge if they feel they have grounds. However, at this point the trustee is not going to pursue payment beyond the 9 months and you can disregard the previous letter.

So ... I am left with the overwhelming feeling that they did, in fact, fuck up... and we caught them. Does that passage not smack of "blah blah blah ... it's not our fault ... blah blah blah ... but since you are being such a bitch about it, we'll tweak this and adjust that and ...VOILA!!! You are discharged? It's funny, yesterday the comment was "but there are rules" and today it's more like "well ... rules - schmules". I can't help thinking if I hadn't reacted the way I did, we'd not only be in for another 12 months, but very likely paying double what we've been paying for the past 9. (An amount that would go a long way toward a decent mortgage payment, by the way... money that is paid NOT to my creditors - no, no ... to the trustee)

It goes to show you - there are a horrifying number of "professionals" in our world that don't know their arses from a hole in the ground. The general populace NEEDS to educate themselves. I am literally trembling in my drawers at how close this has come to financial annihilation.

It would seem we are back in the clear ... today. I won't rest overly easy until we have that paper in our possession. Putting my immediate future in the hands of such people has been harrowing to say the very least.

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