Bank bungles bond substitution

Valerie Bridges of Bothasig was at the end of her tether over the way Standard Bank, who were the executors of her husband’s will, dealt with the winding up of the estate.

But her main complaint, she said, apart from the poor service, was that the bank did not want to put the bond (substitution) in her name although she had been paying the monthly mortgage since his death.

“My husband died in the UK on November 10 2014, and I arrived in Cape Town on November 29 with an interim death certificate issued by the Birmingham council as they still had to perform an autopsy. On Monday Decembe 1, I went to the N1 City branch to submit the relevant documentation, which they were reluctant to accept but they told me I had to deposit money into my late husband’s account, although I had assumed the account would have been frozen immediately,” Ms Bridges said.

“The consultant also advised me to report my husband’s death to the Master of the Supreme Court, but as the bank was the executor I would have expected them to do it. My brother, who worked in the banking field advised me to resubmit the documents at the N1 City branch as they were the executors. Then I received a copy of the bank’s ‘customer value proposition’ in which it clearly states that ‘their clients will be assisted in every possible way’ which, in my case, is a joke as you can see my dilemma.”

Ms Bridges explained that at the time of her husband’s death there was a policy on his credit card, which would cover any outstanding balance on death; the mortgage bond was in both their names as they were married in community of property and there was an operating cheque account.

She also wrote to the Banking Ombudsman about her predicament in August 2015. She told the ombud that she had been trying to have the estate finalised and have the bond put in her name. She didn’t get a satisfactory answer, only that the ombud thought that the offer was fair. But I didn’t understand what offer they were talking about.

“I have tried to get the bank to approve a bond in my name, but they will not approve the substitution, saying I do not qualify even though I have been servicing the bond every month. Will they continue to accept the monthly repayments and leave the bond in limbo until it is repaid in five or 10 years’ time and then only try to wind up the estate?” Ms Bridges wanted to know.

At one stage, the estate department said they “would have to sell off the assets to enable them to wind up the estate”.

Ms Bridges told me that executrix Elna van der Walt said she “would strongly motivate the bond application” but she has withdrawn from the issue.

“Apparently her motivation carried no weight, as the bond application is a matter between me and the bank,” she said.

“Since my husband’s passing I have never missed a payment. I want to finalise the matter, and the bank is being most unreasonable by threatening to sell off the assets.Please help me,” Ms Bridges asked Off My Trolley.

Standard Bank confirmed that Ms Bridges applied for a substitution, a bond to be registered in her name only, when her husband died.

Spokesman Ross Linstrom said Standard executors and trustees were attending to the estate and at the time of death there had been an outstanding balance on the bond but not enough cash in the estate to settle administration expenses and there was no insurance to cover any balance outstanding on the bond.

“During early 2016, Ms Bridges applied for a substitution at the Milnerton branch, but there was a lack of feedback and no outcome communicated to the customer. We really regret this error on our part, especially with something as emotional and sensitive as a deceased estate,” Mr Linstrom said.

“At the beginning of January 2017, Ms Bridges insisted that the executors meet with her at N1 City branch about the estate and her bond application. They met on January 18, and afterwards she applied to take over the existing registered bond. The amount covered the administration expenses and the current outstanding amount on the bond. The application was originally declined due to the account being in estates and a legal status placed on the account. The application was processed again and approved. Again, this could and should have been dealt with more efficiently with the necessary care, empathy and consideration. We can only apologise to Ms Bridges for the frustration that this matter has caused,” he said.

Ms Bridges was advised that her application had been approved and that she would be kept informed about the progress of the estate.

“My bond application has been approved,” Ms Bridges confirmed.

“This was my gripe with the bank, but I needed to enlighten you about the service that Standard Bank failed to provide regarding the estate of my late husband. Once again, many thanks for your assistance in handling this matter with such speed. It has taken me more than two years to reach finalisation, which is all I ever wanted.”

Returning goods

World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is today, Wednesday March 15, and the Consumer Goods and Service Ombudsman (CGSO) said there was a widely-held but mistaken belief that there was a five-day cooling off period for all goods sold under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which had led to a lot of frustration and strife between suppliers and customers.

There are various provisions under the CPA that deal with the return of goods, each with a different time frame. The ombud, Advocate Neville Melville, stressed that the CPA did not create a general right to return goods on a no-questions-asked basis. A change of mind was not a sufficient reason to entitle a consumer to return goods.

It is, however, a widespread practice of certainly the large suppliers to permit consumers to return goods for a refund, exchange or credit note under these circumstances. However, in the interests of good customer relations, the practice has become so commonplace that customers have come to expect suppliers to let them return goods.

The ombud suggested that suppliers should inform consumers of their returns policy, including permissible timeframes for returning goods. Visit: www.cgso.org.za and follow the links to returns revision 3, and put it up at your business.

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