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Help...vulnerable father, procrastinating sister and a £3000 utility bill

(40 Posts)

I can't seem to nc, so I'm having to cut down some personal info, sorry. Where to start?

My father is in his 80's, lives alone, in failing health. He has always been generous to a fault. When he finally sold the family home, (unable to maintain or afford it) he was left with a reasonable sum of money, which along with his pension was to see him through the rest of his life. My mother and father had divorced some years earlier - and there had been a financial settlement, so the proceeds where his alone. He has never been terribly good at budgeting, indeed, as a child I was very aware of the rollacoaster that was my parent's finances - times of plenty followed by red bills and threats - but otherwise we led a very normal middle class life.

Forward to 10 years ago. When Dad came into that money, both my mum and sister felt it was an appropriate place to get a loan for their various projects. My mum was setting up her own business and asked for a £35,000+ loan. I am not completely sure of exact figures - but I am close. My Dad gave it to her (he didn't want to divorce - still loves my mum, but my mum had valid reasons to leave and had given him enough chances). The business failed - landing my mum and stepdad in massive debt which they are still paying off...so my Dad gets nothing.

My sister wanted to buy her own house - all good so far - but couldn't come up with any form of deposit. (She is even more financially irresponsible than my parents). So she asked Dad for a loan - and it was a loan not a gift - which she would repay once she sold the house. He gave her £30,000. She bought the house and all was good, met her husband and then had a son. She was then made redundant from her job, but never mind, because her job and her house was approx 80 miles from where her husband lived! She moved in with him and left the house - yes, that is right, just left the house empty. After a lot of effort from my mum and me, the house was finally got into a state where it could be let (my sister has a pathological distrust of housekeeping...however, she is s.l.o.w.l.y getting better, so I am told hmm) and she got in tenants. But the house, 5 years later, still has tenants in and hasn't been sold...so Dad get nothing.

Last year, all the financial chickens from my Dad's past came home to roost. He was over £30,000 in debt and could no longer keep up with the minimum repayments (and why the banks kept loaning money out to a pensioner is a WHOLE other thread). Thankfully he came clean to me, and I helped him via a charitable debt association, to contact all his creditors and get them to agree a much reduced repayment. There is more - but I am unwilling to say much, but anyone who has been in this position will know what other measures have to be taken. At the time, he told me that he hadn't received a utility bill yet, but since he had only been in his new build rental for a few months, I was not really concerned, since the LL seemed to be sorting it out. A budget was agreed, including money for utilities. The pressure was off and my Dad could once again sleep at night.

I catch up every once in the while about his finances - and all has been OK, until last night. He has finally been contacted (although wrong name on bill, correct address and meter number) by the energy supplier...2.5 years later...his bill is for £3000. WTAF. He didn't chase the supplier as I had expected, but instead sat back and waited for them to come to him. (I wonder if he thought he would be dead before they caught up with him?) I've told him to get on to it on Monday morning...find out the meter readings when he moved in and get them to work out what he owes them - with the correct back dated tariff. I've done the research, and he does seem liable, (although they have fucked up massively as well, and the LL too) so he will have to pay. He got into this debt over 2.5 years, so they cannot force him to pay it back at once, but will have to agree to let him pay it back over the same period, but that will double his fuel bills with one stroke. Pre-paid meter - he is completely reliant on my Dsis to get anywhere - basically house bound, and I don't trust anyone in my family to ensure that he has enough money on the meter. (I live 3 hours away, so there is nothing I can physically do).

AAAHHHHGGGG....I had a difficult phone call to my mum last night...it went like this....

Why the actual fuck is it my responsibility to sort out this whole family's finances? (Oh...there is more...I just can't write it all down here - it would be a book!)
You and Dsis took his money off him, when he was in his 70's, and you knew this was all he had to live on FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE you fuckers...and now, because you are all CHILDREN and have failed to show any form of financial planning, you are now broke, unwilling / unable to sell the house YOU ARE NOT ACTUALLY LIVING IN....and the only person, once again, who is able to / cares enough to help is THE ONE PERSON who has NEVER TAKEN ANYTHING FROM HER FAMILY...

...I can afford to pay the bill...either at once or in instalments. BUT I have my own family, DC, husband, household, bills and future.....AAAHHHGGG

But I love my bloody useless family and I cannot sit by and watch my father worry / freeze / starve himself to death because he just can't afford to pay.

WWYD?

tweetytwat Sat 30-Nov-13 11:24:35

I would speak to SS. He sounds like a vulnerable adults who has been financially abused by his family
it sounds like a right messsad Poor man it must be very stressful.

tweetytwat Sat 30-Nov-13 11:25:12

would bankruptcy be an option?

Thanks for the replies...

...I think I am going to have to get Adult Services involved anyway because he is so vulnerable, I think he is at the point to needed social care of some sort.

We looked at bankruptcy initially when he went into the debt negotiation. He wasn't keen then, but things might have changed. The reasons he didn't want to do it was because it would force Dsis into selling the house for a loss which she couldn't bear, and would also impact my DM delicate finances. She is only now getting herself straight after this business disaster 10 years ago. (Oh God, it never ends, and it is always me that bails everyone out...)

ooerrmissus Switzerland Sat 30-Nov-13 11:46:18

Oh dear what a mess.

I assume your DF didn't actually stop anyone taking a meter reading, or fail to provide one when asked? If that's the case the most the energy company can do is ask for payment for the last year. They can't backdate further than that. Look at moneysavingexpert.com for more advise. And you can take 3 years to pay if back.

For the rest I don't know. I might be tempted to get your DSis to forward all rental income to your dad until his loan is paid off. She will still be better off long term than if she had to sell at a loss.

Hath

No, my DF didn't stop anyone checking the meter, and he has responded to all enquires about the meter number. Some of the responsibility must lie with the energy company and the LL who built the house. I've read the CAB website, but if the energy company doesn't listen, do I go to Ofgen next? If it were me I'd fight them 'til I died, but my DF is an ostrich...which is why I had to set up the debt plan for him.

I'm meant to be painting the bathroom today...but this is all I can think of. sad

AnUnearthlyChild Sat 30-Nov-13 11:52:38

Honestly, call social services and leave them all too it.

Your immediate family need you. Don't waste your precious time with them in worrying yourself into a state about a bunch do supposed grown ups who have got themselves into a pickle entirely of their own making.

Your dad is vulnerable, he needs protection that social services can offer.

You would not be selfish of you took a step back from this.

SandyDilbert Sat 30-Nov-13 12:05:51

does he have a note of the meter readings when he moved in and does he have meter readings taken now? How has the LL mucked up the bill?

BusyLittleSpider Sat 30-Nov-13 12:11:27

We had a similar situation with our water bill, our water meter was faulty and we were massively under charged then eventually served a £££ bill.

We were able to negotiate with our utilities company and they agreed to knock a large amount off the overall bill, the rest we paid in instalments of £30 per month. I would definitely speak to them, or get an advocate to speak on your fathers behalf, to explain that he is vulnerable and that he wasn't aware of this bill. It sounds like his utilities provider have not done much to chase this up, so it's worth a try negotiating with them on that basis.

I've also been involved in a situation where family members are financially abusing an older, more vulnerable family member, it's a shitty thing to happen to anyone and also for you to be dealing with OP. My family's situation is ongoing, it's a mess even with SS involvement sad

He does have the meter reading when he moved in and now - that part is entirely him.

However, the LL built the house, and connected it to the mains. It appears that there was a break down in communication at that point between the LL and the energy company. This has meant that it has taken an age for the energy company to actually sort out which meter is in which house, including some issue mixing up the bill with the meter from the house that originally stood where the new house is now...it is a right mess and quite frankly I bet I haven't got to the bottom of it, because my DF was quite distressed on the phone yesterday and I couldn't drill down into the detail. Now, I've been a LL myself, and tenant's utility bills generally are not the LL concern, but if the process and paperwork sorting out connection and energy supply on a new build house has been mucked up, then the two people in that exchange - ie the energy company and the LL - must share some of the responsibility. However, I don't expect that will make any material difference to my Dad.

SantiagoToots Sat 30-Nov-13 12:19:53

Please get some more info about bankruptcy - afaik (and I'm not an expert), whatever he has (or has not) given to your mother/sister/unicorn over the years is of no consequence and his creditors cannot harass them!

What would SS do in this situation? How can they protect / help my father? The Dsis with the house is also the only family member able to look in on my father regularly, and he relies on her for practical help and social well being...(but I agree, this comes with a heavy cost...'oooh my DS would love that toy / coat / whatever...' 'Oh, I'll get it for him then...'

I would love to move my DF away from all that, and get him to live close to me...he would never agree.

SandyDilbert Sat 30-Nov-13 12:22:20

well they should only bill him for units used, and you have the meter readings and the actual meter number itself - anything owed from before that will not be his responsibility.

Can you get him to go the CAB, they are good with stuff like this, also if he has a pre paid meter and you are worried about it running out i know British gas let you top up on line once you resister so maybe you could register and then if he is desperate top up £10 for him.

redundantandbitter Sat 30-Nov-13 20:04:19

I am sure I heard something about 'non received' bills on radio 4. Think they said that the utility companies can't ask for more than 12 months back payment . So you would only be liable for that period . Please check this out before you start negotiating with the utility company (they will ask for it all, obviously). You think a charity like Help The Aged would be able to advise? Hope you getting it sorted/reduced

RandomMess Sat 30-Nov-13 20:08:19

I didn't think they could force anyone to have a prepayment meter anymore?

I will see if Age Concern can help - they have helped with stuff before. I will definitely try and argue for the 12 month limit - the energy company played it's part in this mess too!

redundantandbitter Sat 30-Nov-13 21:27:12

Good! And let us know how you get on

MikeLitoris Argentina Sat 30-Nov-13 21:30:15

The energy company will have to take some responsibility. They are restrictions on being able to back bill over certain lengths of time. you say which supplier it is?

At the moment I will hold my tongue about the company - I'll spill the beans if they act badly towards my father though! (Right now, I bet they are pretty unaware of the situation themselves...we are all just nameless, faceless individuals whose petty concerns and lives don't mean much! Just have a look at all the threads this winter where worried families are trying to keep warm without using energy!)

SandyDilbert Sat 30-Nov-13 21:44:57

is it worth contacting them via FB or Twitter? Not ranting and all that (to begin with at least) - but a bit of adverse publicity can work wonders.

I'll get my facts straight on Monday and then maybe work social media - it is a good idea! Shame it won't work on my DM and Dsis!

cozietoesie Sun 01-Dec-13 08:10:28

I was a little concerned about your sister I confess. We had this situation in our own family - where we knew that any money we put in at one end to our Dad would be leached out at the other by the person doing the 'Oh that's such a nice coat/scarf/toy/whatever....' and the old man would put his hand in his pocket. Therefore he would end up broke whatever we did.

Our situation was unresolvable, I'm afraid, and was only 'sorted' by my Dad's death. However, have you spoken to your sister about the problems? (I see you spoke to your mum albeit unsatisfactorily.)

I used to work at British Gas and the PPs saying he can only be back billed for 12 months are right. If he has the meter readings from when he moved in and now the ebergy company should be able to plot his probable usage pattern and then only issue a bill covering from December 2012 to now.

tribpot Sun 01-Dec-13 08:36:23

The reasons he didn't want to do it was because it would force Dsis into selling the house for a loss which she couldn't bear, and would also impact my DM delicate finances.

But he's being forced close to bankruptcy by their profligacy. Why on earth shouldn't they feel the effects of that? Who the hell borrows money for a deposit from someone in their 70s and claims they'll get the money back 'when the house is sold'? If he had died in the meantime, presumably this money would just have disappeared out of his estate, meaning effectively your sister would have disinherited you, as well.

The house can be sold with the tenants inside, btw, it isn't an either/or situation. Your sister needs to be pressured to get it on the market pronto.

From the size of his debts, it sounds like your father has basically pissed away the nest egg that should have given him a comfortable old age, if he lent c. 65K of it out and then ran up debts of another 30. I take it the money's all gone, bar whatever capital is in the house? He needs protection to stop the two vultures in your family from pressuring him into withdrawing equity from that too.

I would definitely be having a word with social services.

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