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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?

cozietoesie Sun 01-Dec-13 08:45:15

'vultures' is the right word. I can appreciate that people can get into a one-off fix which causes problems and for which they might need some temporary help but there is no excuse for continued whining and spending on unnecessary items at someone else's expense, parent or no. That is just totally selfish behaviour. Callous, even, when it's causing the other person such distress.

(My response here may be coloured by past experience, I'm afraid.)

tribpot Sun 01-Dec-13 08:51:37

Agreed. I can imagine that OP's mum may feel she was 'owed' for the years of financial mismanagement when they were married, but the marriage is dissolved, that time is done. (She's married someone else, surely he felt it was deeply odd to be in debt to his wife's first husband?)

cozietoesie Sun 01-Dec-13 09:00:22

I think the main difficulty here is that the OP's father may, as far as SS are concerned, be entirely in command of his faculties. So he chooses to indulge members of his family to his own detriment? There are plenty of people who do that and are much younger and more able than him.

I'm not sure what SS could actually do - apart from the fact that a referral, whatever the outcome, might just cause the OP's mother and sister to reflect on their actions, through embarrassment if nothing else.

Thanks for the replies overnight. You are right Cozie, that is my fear, that if we solve this problem, firstly, nothing will change and there will be another drama next year and secondly, my sister will remain a continuous drain on his resources.
My mother is really sorry for the mess she instigated. Yes, I have heard her say it was 'fair' that she had further money from dad since the original settlement was so low - but she got no sympathy from me down that avenue, and now seems truly concerned about her actions. She lost her home in this business disaster ( I thought you could limit liabilities...) and has had to battle back to renting a house for the first time in 7/8 years finally this year. (Before that she lived in a caravan/ my home / cheap hotels) She and my DSD have only just got back on their feet, and are now looking to find something to start paying off their debit to my dad. And as far as it being weird about owing your DW's exDH money... I was a bit hmm when I found out!

My sister is a much harder nut to crack... She hits behind MH problems...(which I do have some sympathy with since I have had problems myself!) She is incredibly difficult to have hard conversations with. Tears, wailing, promises to change...then nothing...if you try again she just shuts you down and walks away. I have told her she can sell with tenants in, I have even offered to pay her mortgage for her if she gives notice to her tenants so she can sell the house empty! I have given the job of talking to her to my mother!

I am NC with my other sister....oh what a fucked up family!

cozietoesie Sun 01-Dec-13 11:10:50

It's so so difficult. You want/need to limit the problems but you can only do that by creating other problems or by disrespecting your parent's independence.

Have you actually asked your father to move closer to you? (I know you said 'he would never agree' but I wasn't sure whether that was just in anticipation of what he might say.) I suspect that if you loaded the situation correctly he might be persuaded.

RandomMess Sun 01-Dec-13 11:47:19

Perhaps you need to play hardball with your dad and tell him that he doesn't have a choice that your sisters house will have to be sold - it's not like she's going to end up homeless by this happening is it!

I would really like him to move near us. I have approached the question and he said no. He is quite reclusive, unwilling to venture out and about. He doesn't have any friends locally, but has lived in that area since his late 40s, so he has an emotional attachment he doesn't have to my area. I can approach him again, but I will have to get my timing just right! He understands my Dsis house must go, and wants it to, but he also doesn't want to unset her. Everyone is forced to tiptoe around her...my husband thinks she is some sort of sociopath... Just can't see what her actions do to those around her!

I don't think she is, but she is blind to the consequences of her actions where money is concerned, it is like she stopped maturing when she got to 14!

capticorn1 Sun 01-Dec-13 12:07:41

Have you looked into getting power of attorney?

georgedawes Sun 01-Dec-13 12:21:05

Yes could you get power of attorney and force a sale that way?

RandomMess Sun 01-Dec-13 12:33:45

Unless the Dad is named on the deeds of the house ie the loan is legally enforceable in some way then it is entirely dependent on the sister doing the "right" thing and selling up to pay back the loan.

Tianc Sun 01-Dec-13 12:57:33

Utility companies are only allowed to fit a key meter if it is "safe and reasonably practical" to do so. They are not allowed to disconnect a person of pensionable age during the winter, and Ofgem have said that fitting an inappropriate prepayment meter can count as disconnection.

Can't find the exact quote I'm looking for, but this Ofgem document about smart meters gives the gist:
"where they become aware or have reason to believe it is no longer safe and reasonably practicable for a customer to use prepayment, to offer alternative arrangements
...
Given the importance of these issues we will take a robust approach to enforcement in this area, particularly where vulnerable customers are involved."
Smart Metering Spring Package - Addressing Consumer Protection Issues, pp3-4

Use the words "not safe and reasonably practical" and "vulnerable person" when writing to the utility company - your housebound, pensioner father living alone definitely comes under that category.

34DD Sun 01-Dec-13 21:06:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cozietoesie Mon 02-Dec-13 09:54:45

What I'm going to say comes from experience although it may sound harsh.

I'm guessing that your sister is in her 40s or 50s? I think she's a lost cause, I'm afraid. She'll have been relying on being bailed out by 'Daddy' for most of her life and Daddy (who probably has some guilt lurking around as well) is indulging that through misguided paternal feelings.

I doubt very much whether he has any strong emotional attachment to where he's living but he will likely have a huge attachment to 'keeping things the same' and likely wouldn't, at his age, wish to face tantrums and dramas.

The reason I mentioned asking him to come to live closer to you is that that's likely the only way to get the situation under control - and I'm talking eg quietly removing his cheque book and bank cards so that he can't use them. Is there any chance of - for instance - asking him to come for a visit to you/near you because you 'need him' ? (Think of a reason why you need him.) If you're seen to be the strong daughter then you'll be down the line on his practical priorities, I'm afraid (although not in his love) so you need to redress that balance.

The visit would, of course, be extended .....somewhat..... eventually.

Oh - and has he made a will? That needs to be attended to directly.

Sorry this is so short and a bit brusque. It's a hugely complicated and difficult situation for you.

TalkativeJim Mon 02-Dec-13 10:43:26

Nothing to say except that it sounds as if your sister is a nasty manipulative parasite who knows exactly what she's doing... And I'd be playing extremely hard ball with her from now on, tears or no tears. I really hope you can get her house sold and get your Dad living near you.

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