‘Bank valued my unsaleable home at £600,000 – now I’ve got to move’
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
One surveyor values this seven-bedroom house at £600,000. Another says it is almost worthless; the strange case of RBS, a secret survey and the campaigner who will not give up.
At the end of March Andy Keats will leave his house of 27 years.
But he is not going quietly.
He has raised serious allegations about the way his bank used an independent surveyor to value his home.
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is repossessing his home in East Tuddenham after cutting the time he had to pay his mortgage of £500,000 from 12 years to three.
The bank did this in 2012 after the former police officer told them he discovered the land around his home, including its driveway, was owned separately to the land the house is on.
It makes the house almost worthless, according to a surveyor instructed by Mr Keats, as it is effectively landlocked. Access, sewage and water disposal for the home are on a separate bit of land to the house and owned by a relation of his.
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RBS said last week that it would be possible for him to sell the two bits of land as one and therefore pay back the mortgage. But the 57-year-old said when he tried to combine the two bits of land to sell the house, RBS refused to let him.
At a meeting with the bank in 2012, which accused him of being in arrears with his mortgage, he said the bank would not allow him to combine the two bits of land under one ownership and solve the problem.
Instead they wanted him to pay back the mortgage and sell the house as it was. In return he would get a £50,000 reduction on his mortgage. But when he tried to sell it Mr Keats' surveyor found the home was 'virtually unsaleable'.
RBS then got a surveyor to value the home. That surveyor put a value of £600,000 on it.
Mr Keats said the survey carried out for RBS in 2015 raised serious questions about the bank's use of an independent surveyor.
The surveyor for RBS never visited the home. Instead he valued it in secret by driving past it, despite Mr Keats repeatedly asking RBS to visit and produce a full valuation.
Mr Keats believes the surveyor produced the valuation for RBS to justify the size of the mortgage the bank had given him.
His suspicion increased when one former RBS Norwich manager-turned-whistleblower told Mr Keats that the same surveyor valued properties at the amount the bank wanted them valued at.
'He was the one that basically we would turn around and say, it needs to be £100 grand – £100 grand time and time again,' the whistleblower said.
RBS' past use of surveyors was also criticised by regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in a report published last month into the way the bank mistreated small businesses from 2008 to 2013.
The FCA investigation found the bank did not put checks on potential conflict of interests between valuers and solicitors who dealt with RBS customers.
RBS said in response to Mr Keats' allegation that the valuer was instructed by the bank's solicitors and Mr Keats had seen a copy of those instructions.
A spokesman said: 'The suggestion that the valuer was asked/instructed to provide a valuation that is anything other than their own professional view of the value of the property is categorically denied.'
Mr Keats' valuation from 2015 conducted by a different surveyor said the home would have an 'extremely limited' market but could get offers between £1,000 and £20,000.
'It was clear in 2012 that we had discovered a defect with the property,' Mr Keats said. 'The bank tried to prove there was not a defect and it means they owe me nothing and get the house.'
It is the latest in a series of problems he has had with RBS dating back 10 years. In 2007 Mr Keats had to close his business in Dereham after the bank stopped its credit facilities.
Mr Keats problems with the mortgage started in 2009 when RBS agreed additional borrowing for him. They then withdrew that borrowing, putting him in arrears.
RBS said Mr Keats was £50,000 overdrawn on the mortgage in 2012. He paid off £56,000 and was promised a reduction of another £50,000 at the end of the mortgage. But in return he had to pay the full amount back by 2015 rather than 2024.
'We said 'this is ridiculous' but we had no option but to agree,' he said. 'If we didn't they were going to up mortgage payments to an extent we couldn't afford and they could repossess the house.'
Mr Keats said he was still offering RBS a way to remedy the problem by combining the two bits of land. But, unable to pay the mortgage back, he will now move out at the end of March and leave the bank to sell the house.
•RBS win case
In September last year, RBS took Mr Keats to court because he had not paid his mortgage back by 2015 as agreed three years earlier.
The judge dismissed Mr Keats' concerns about not being able to sell the house to pay the money back.
The judgement said: 'There are various ways in which the defendants might possibly have been able to redeem in full by 2015, some of the most obvious being sale of the land, refinancing and coming into money from another source.'
He also dismissed Mr Keats' argument that he had no choice but to sign the agreement in 2012 with the bank to pay the full amount back by 2015.
Mr Keats said: 'RBS were saying we refused to sell the house as agreed by 2015. We were saying we can't sell it as its on two bits of land and we can't combine them without RBS agreeing as they have a charge on the land.'
•1,000 changes to bank complaint
Mr Keats has highlighted a series of allegations about bad behaviour by RBS.
The former Metropolitan police officer discovered that complaints he had made to the bank had been vastly edited.
In a transcript of one phone conversation where he complained to the bank in 2015 he found RBS had made 1,000 changes.
'They removed everything from the transcript to put it in a better light for them,' he said. 'It defies belief.
'They suppressed my complaints by falsifying the transcripts where I complain.'
An RBS spokesman said: 'We categorically deny falsifying customer records to suit our purposes.
'The Information Commissioner's Office have also reviewed and rejected Mr Keats' complaint.
'The approach taken and the resulting transcript do not affect what personal data should have been provided to Mr Keats, under the Data Protection Act.'