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A house of horrors

• Family loses home they paid for • Bank and Nipdec say it’s not so
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Cyril and Ruth Paul tell the harrowing story of their fight for their home before, Cyril, 89, died and, was laid to rest on June 18. PHOTO: Darren Rampersad

Richard Paul is convinced his father died of a broken heart. 


Cyril Paul, 89, was laid to rest on June 18 after years of fighting to get back his home, taken away by the National Insurance Board (NIB) for arrears on a 1985 loan with the Workers Bank, which the Pauls can prove they paid.


In April 2009, following a 2005 court judgment, the Pauls—Cyril and his 78-year-old wife Ruth—were evicted from their home at Carnelian Gardens, Diamond Vale, where they lived for 39 years. NIB claimed they owed in excess of $400,000. 


More than four years after the eviction, however, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, now estimated to be worth more than $1 million, stands abandoned. Nipdec, the holder of the property, has not tried to either auction or sell the property and all of the utility bills still come in the Pauls’ name.


The pensioners have been paying the bills on a home they neither live in or own. Documents show the Pauls received a mortgage loan for $30,000 in June of 1978 and another for $144,000 in 1981. They also have documents showing they paid off those loans. 


“We only ever got two loans from Workers Bank,” Ruth said.


Cyril was still alive when his son brought their story to the T&T Guardian. “The stress is killing him,” Richard, 50, had said at the time. 


“I have watched my father struggle with this situation, running between NIB and the bank, trying to get the situation cleared up but he is giving up now. 


“He told me he has given up. I would just want my father to see something done about this situation before he dies,” Richard had said.


Following the passing of his father, his son said: “My father died of a broken heart. It is this house thing that killed him. My parents are victims of a great injustice.” 


The loan


Correspondence sent from NIB to the couple in 1991 suggests the property was seized over the $144,000 loan. 


One banker who the T&T Guardian consulted on the matter also theorised that the action would more than likely have been brought against the Pauls for that loan. 


He added: “This is a loan that was running for 16 years and a pretty hefty one in the present day, much less back in the 1980s. 


“If the clients concerned had another loan which was in default at the time that they applied for the $144,000 loan, their application would have been rejected, no bank would take the risk. 


“If they defaulted on the $144,000 loan they would not get another after that so it is safe to think that this was the problem loan.” 


The loan was of a kind given back then by the Workers Bank, called a Varinstall loan, given with the expectation that the client’s assets would increase and so, built into the loan, were escalating interest rates where the instalments as well as the principal balance would increase. 


Calculated overall, the Pauls paid in excess of $400,000 on the $144,000 borrowed. 


The schedule shows they finished paying off the loan in October 1997.


In 1990, during the period when Workers Bank was transitioning to First Citizens Bank, the bank wrote the Pauls advising that the outstanding balance on their “interim construction financing loan” (ICFL) was $97,486.97.



The bank reminded them interest was continuing to accrue at the rate of 14.5 per cent per annum. The Pauls were confused about the correspondence and sought clarification. 


“These letters were coming and my father and I kept going to the bank to see what they were about because we were making regular instalments on the loan. We would go to the bank and the bank would send us to NIB and NIB would send us back to the bank and no one could give us any information about these arrears,” Richard Paul said.


“I can only conclude that something went wrong with the records in the transition and they came after us for a loan we already paid,” he added.


Back in 1977, the bank had written to the Pauls to say their application for a $58,000 ICFL was approved and that the facility would be “in the form of an overdraft.” 


The consulting banker told the T&T Guardian that an overdraft was like a revolving loan given with a chequing account. “It is never given with a savings account.”


Mrs Paul said she and her husband never got a $58,000 loan and they never had a chequing account. 


The T&T Guardian contacted the National Insurance Property Development Company (Nipdec) to get some clarification on the issue, for though court action was brought by NIB, it was Nipdec who, in 2009, wrote to the Supreme Court about the eviction proceedings. 



The judgment and the eviction


The Pauls were unrepresented on the date their matter was heard in court. 


“Our attorney did not inform us of our court date. We did not go to court and neither did she. When we asked her about her absence she said she had a pressing matter in Tobago,” Richard Paul said. 


On March 10, 2005, Justice Best ruled against the Pauls. On January 8, 2008, a man who said he was an “officer of the court” accompanied by two men in plainclothes, claiming to be police officers, arrived to evict the Pauls. 


“The man from the court told us that they could delay the eviction if we paid court costs of $1,800. 


“The men accompanied my father and me to RBTT at West Mall. We withdrew the money and gave to them and the eviction was not carried out,” Richard said.


On April 22, 2009, a letter was sent by Nipdec to the Marshal’s Assistance Department at the Supreme Court, expressing displeasure over the Pauls continued occupation of their home and requested that Mr Bynoe, the marshal assigned to the eviction proceedings, be removed from the matter. The Pauls were evicted three days later.


The court


The Pauls went back to court in 2008 seeking to have the judgment set aside. 


The judge, while not setting aside the judgment, advised the parties to work out a settlement and further advised the NIB lawyers to pay attention to the Pauls’ receipts.


The NIB lawyers claimed the receipts which proved the loan was paid, were affiliated with some other loan. 


Strange, because in January 1989, eight years and two months into the life of the $144,000 loan, the principal outstanding balance was $127,885.83, the exact figure—down to the very last cent—which the Paul’s were sued over.


The NIB lawyers also refused a settlement offer of $130,000 made by the Pauls.


Seeking clarification, the T&T Guardian spoke with the Nipdec head of marketing, Avarish Harrysingh, and Jennilyn Howe-Dopwell, head of communications at NIB.


They directed us to the law firm of Girwar and Deonarine to attorney Susan Moolchan who was unvailable when we called. 


We then received a call from Vishnu Deonarine, who would not entertain any questions and would only say that “NIB won.” 


Moolchan wrote to the Sunday Guardian editor, stating that our enquiries “questioned the validity of the judgment of the Honourable Justice Best.” 


No justice for the Pauls


Before his death, Mr Paul cited another matter where he was denied justice. 


In October 1970 he purchased that lot in Diamond Vale, 4424 sq ft. In 1977 he got his deed, with a bonus, the property was in fact 5,000 square feet. 


That very year the Pauls began construction, their plans approved by Town and Country. In 1985 the Pauls were taken to court for land encroachment and the court ruled against them.


“The judge ordered me to break down part of my house,” Paul said. He paid $130,000 as a settlement to his neighbours but continued to pursue the issue, after all he held a 1975 deed signed by then Governor General Sir Ellis Clarke, who has since died, confirming that they were legally entitled to 5,000 sq ft of land.


In 2001 a letter was sent by the law firm of T Malcolm Milne & Co to then Housing Minister Sadiq Baksh, asking that the State compensate Mr Paul for the monies he paid because of the court’s flawed judgment. He was never compensated.


“We lost that judgment on the issue of the land and we lost the issue on the judgment for the house,” Richard Paul said.


Before his father died, Richard had said: “My father is very low and I just hope that something can be done so he can die in peace.”


Following the death Richard said: “My dad is gone. He did not get justice. I must now get justice for my mother.”


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