Anna Gallagher’s troubles started in 2008 when her husband began encountering difficulties at work. The couple, with a home in Ashington, Dublin, soon went into arrears on the mortgage they had with Permanent TSB.
Then, two years later, Gallagher’s husband took his own life. “I was left with the house and the mortgage and two girls,” she says. “I literally had no one to talk to.
“The bank came out to us in June after my husband died in February so it was really raw. I asked them what the next step was and they told me it was repossession and that was it. I didn’t know where I was going to go from then.”
When Permanent TSB sold the loan on from its subprime mortgage business, known as Springboard, to vulture fund Mars Capital, things got even worse. “There were three and four letters per week, as well as phone calls,” she says. “I got to the stage I wouldn’t answer the phone.
“I was going through a hard time between what happened my husband and trying to deal with all this, not having any money and not being able to pay, and then getting letters and calls: ‘We’re looking for this. We’re looking for that. Otherwise you’re out.’
“I think you’re only a number with the banks. They don’t know or they don’t care what you’re going through. I was definitely going [on to the streets]. I had no way of paying it. I only had the widow’s pension.”
After spotting iCare chief executive David Hall on the television, Gallagher made contact and the group completed the purchase of her home in November.
“This was the first Christmas I had a bit of enjoyment,” she says. “I lost out on the births of my grandkids because I wasn’t dealing with anything. I was just sitting in the house and didn’t want to see anyone, so this is the best thing that’s ever happened.”