Walvis Bay resident Andrea Hoth (60) was one of many hopefuls who, five years ago, jumped at the chance of applying for a home loan.
Like everyone else, she was thrilled by the possibility of owning a home.
Hoth, an estate agent, remembers entering the offices of one of the country’s major banks, saying: “We were so thrilled and looking forward to a slower lifestyle and more family time.
“It was a very deeply thought-through decision to sell the farm, which also hosted a lodge, but health issues did not give us much of an option,” she told The Namibian yesterday.
When Hoth and her family finally found the perfect plot at Swakopmund, it felt “like we were in heaven”.
“I immediately started communicating with the bank about the purchase,” she said.
The purchase price was N$4,5 million, and the family would pay N$2,5 million upfront.
That, plus a mortgage of N$2 million, as the plot needed some improvements to be made.
With money available and a bank eager to seal the deal, the Hoths followed all its instructions to the letter.
“The anticipation and happiness were huge,” she said.
Home ownership requires patience and a gruelling amount of paperwork and consultations.
Hoth says the day the Deeds Office was to register the plot in the family’s name they would have a family braai to celebrate.
“Little did we know of the shock to come. The bank never processed our mortgage, and although I phoned daily enquiring about its progress, I was always assured all is on time, but it never was, and we had to pay the full amount – throwing our budget into shambles,” she said.
“The bank people merely shrugged their shoulders, so I took a loan of N$1 million and completed what we had to do,” she said.
When Hoth started struggling to pay the full premium, she tried to engage the bank on the matter, she said.
“I had changed direction in my career, and needed a little more time. I begged for new calculations, maybe a longer term and a little less repayment – all for nothing. The worst is that the people who were making the decisions became unreachable,” she said.
The situation started escalating.
“Summons upon summons … messenger of court … It was like the bank was feverishly grabbing my property. And they did. It was auctioned in late 2019. The bank bought it for N$2 million.
“There were attempts to get us evicted numerous times, and that included being shouted at by staff from the legal department.
“Our house was invaded by agents, potential buyers, curious people all sent by the bank 24/7.
“Eventually they sold the plot way under its value and declared the profit as theirs, leaving us destitute, our family ripped apart.
“They never removed us from the credit list, which alienated us from any chance of trying to start over. We were handed a death sentence by the bank, awaiting the final day,” Hoth said.
The Hoths’ vehicles were attached by the bank, and she said the family is currently living at Walvis Bay, “but we own nothing, and we’re just getting by”.
“My big fight with the bank is: I owed you N$1,9 million. You sold my property for N$4,5 million. Why was the balance of N$2,6 million after the debt was paid not refunded to us?”
Hoth has become a statistic, one among many who now has to resort to the services of lawyers.
The family has since penned a letter about the injustices of commercial banks, pleading for the intervention of Bank of Namibia governor Johannes !Gawaxab.
‘DEAF TO JUSTICE’
Lawyer Richard Metcalfe, who is representing several defaulting home loan holders, says it is not easy mounting a legal challenge against banks in Namibia.
He says most lawyers do not do pro bono work.
“It is a lot of work in the High Court, a number of appearances. So, it costs money. And if they cannott afford to pay a bond, how would they afford to pay their lawyer?
“That’s how bad it is and how difficult it is for these people if the banks do not have a sense of justice and fairness, and they do not want to do what they do in South Africa.
“At least the banks in South Africa have a sense of corporate responsibility towards their clients. Seems the banks in Namibia have never heard of these things, and they are absolutely deaf to justice and equity,” he says.
The Namibian this week reported that 10 houses are listed for attachment on a weekly basis.
“Today we feel cheated, looted, robbed!” Hoth said.