A couple took out a variable rate 25 year mortgage in 2006 for a buy-to-let property. However, their financial circumstances changed in 2011 and they started having trouble in servicing this property as well as their home mortgage. They restructured the mortgage on their family home.
After a series of "misunderstandings and miscommunications" between the couple and the lender, the couple were told that the mortgage account had been moved to the legal department of its Arrears Support Unit and they were now classified as "non-co-operating".
The Ombudsman later found this to be "unreasonable" and said it likely had a significant and unfavourable impact on the manner in which the lender dealt with the couple.
In June 2014, a third party acting on behalf of the couple told the lender that they intended to sell the property to clear outstanding arrears. "Sale agreed" was reached in November 2015.
After much difficulty getting the redemption figures from the lender, the couple's solicitor contacted it in January 2016 to say that the sale was complete but a small shortfall would remain after the sale.
In late January, they contacted the lender to get a response to the letter, but the customer service agent told them that the lender intended to appoint a receiver to the property.
The couple were shocked at this news and expressed their concern to the agent, highlighting how the lender had provided no support during what had been a difficult situation.
Half an hour later, they called the Arrears Support Unit again and spoke to a different person. This agent told them the property had "been in the receivership for 12 months" and dealt with them in a "highly dismissive manner".
The Ombudsman said it was most unreasonable that after the challenging process of selling a property, the couple was then told that a receiver had been appointed 12 months before to it.
However in reality, this process had only been considered and not actioned and it appears the lender later tried to misrepresent what the agent had said on the matter during the phone call.
The Ombudsman also found it unacceptable that the lender did not admit the mistake.
He also found that the Arrears Support Unit's legal department had adopted an "obstructive approach" and treated the couple in an unreasonable and unjust manner.
The Ombudsman concluded that the couple were caught in an impossible situation where the lender was slow to engage its legal remedies, but was dealing with the couple's attempts to reach an agreement as they they were non-co-operating borrowers against whom legal remedies had started.
The complaint was upheld and the lender was directed to pay €90,000 in compensation to the couple.