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Dispute: Suzi’s family home at 127 Elphin Rd ...

First published February 28 ...

*A brief overview of life as a victim of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) …

NO one person or Corporation has the right to disrespect and decimate another human being.  What I have experienced as a customer of the CBA can only be seen as a Heinous Act or Crime and yet the law allows these acts to continue.  People are being destroyed across the country and lives are being lost!  We must stand up now for a Royal Commission with specific Terms of Reference to compensate the victims, expose the crimes and prevent people from taking their own lives.

This has been a simply soul-destroying journey for my daughter and I.  The bank, in my view, was ruthless and wrongful in stripping me of nearly everything I owned, including my family home (pictured above). 

The bank destroyed my right to earn an income by refusing to allow me to sell off a residential investment property to save my two businesses and my commercial property.  The bank refused to treat me as a person in financial hardship as they were ordered to do by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). The bank refused to allow me to pay the difference into the courts between the wrongful sale of my investment property and the demand in the courts and to allow me to keep our family home and to keep my daughter safe.  In fact it now appears it was intent on taking me down for standing up to its unconscionable conduct and, in my view, the bank was prepared to do anything to do this and make me suffer.

I am now isolated from family and friends. At times I have been forced to sleep on friends’ floors.  I now only have Centrelink as an income and have been forced to borrow money just to survive, I am truly blessed to have such amazing friends.  I have generally lost my sense of worth in society.  I feel at times I have no purpose in life.

Below is a brief summary of Suzi Burge’s case against the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Suzi has told her full story in a series of affadavits lodged with the Supreme Court of Tasmania, High Court of Australia and the Federal Court of Australia …

I very much regret my decision in 2008 to inquire about a loan with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to improve my commercial property in Reuben Court, Kings Meadows.  This property was my superannuation and was unencumbered prior to the lending.  As the property was in a ‘Blue Chip location’ next to a large Shopping Centre, I always felt that this property would appreciate in value and allow me to be self-sufficient in my retirement years. 

In 2008 when applying for a loan with CBA, the bank misled me and engaged in what was described to me by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) as asset lending - in that it was prepared to provide a financial product which it knew was not affordable or suitable for my finance purposes and was prepared to do so because it was covered by my asset position secured by the mortgage.  The FOS investigated both the 2008 and the 2010 loans in 2012 and after a two-year investigation found CBA guilty of Maladministration in Lending.  Unfortunately FOS made mistakes and I was never restored to where I should have been prior to the CBA wrongful lending in 2008 and 2010.

CBA, I believe, manipulated the income and expense figures to suit its lending decision, without reference to my true financial position or the consequences to me.  It appears that the four credit analysis reports were altered to produce a servicing capacity that would allow the loans to go through. CBA internal documentation also states I was a ‘Win’ for the bank in both the 2008 lending and the 2010 lending.

Valuations on the Reuben Court property were $450,000 prior to the lending of $300,000 in 2008 to improve the property, $650,000 prior to the refinance of my investment property and family home after the renovations were done and then just $380,000 prior to CBA’s wrongful sale of my property.  The valuer at all times was the same and an ex-CBA business banking manager.  My property sold for approx. $364,000 which was approx $85,000 less than the original valuation prior to the improvements made to the property.  One has to ask how does that happen?  I say that CBA inflated and deflated valuations to suit its own purpose.

It was deceitful and misleading by the bank to represent to me in 2008 and 2010 that its loans on the terms dictated to me were suitable for my purposes when it knew that I could only comply with the contract interest and costs regime with substantial hardship or by having the credit limit increased during the loan period.

As a result I have fallen into a spiral that has led to the loss of my commercial property, two businesses, my investment property and finally my family home and personal belongings.  I have also lost my marriage, my family, my self-respect and social worth and everything I hold dear.

The bank’s conduct has left me devastated: The Supreme Court’s ... approach of not letting me show ‘just cause’ under the Land Titles Act s146.2 as to why a possession order should not be made, but instead making possession orders without hearing my grievances against the bank, and instead ordering a separate action which they then wedged me out of any hearing on the merits by using threatening and bullying tactics on 7th March 2016 (after I had been stripped of nearly all my assets).

The Supreme Court of Tasmania has disregarded Commonwealth laws affecting my position in hearing my injunction application.  On 10th February 2016 AsJ Holt dismissed my Urgent Injunction application.  AsJ Holt made the following (to me) horrendous statement “If an injunction is not granted the plaintiff can receive complete compensation if she succeeds in the action, and so would suffer no hardship by the refusal of her application”. How can you compensate someone for the loss of their family and family home of 25 years or any other property?  The court system - I believe - failed me by not allowing me to show cause in the possession action and instead ordering me to start a new action if I wanted to set aside or vary the loan contracts. 

Breaches of the National Credit Code, particularly the hardship clauses, and of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 s128 & 131, by the Bank in 2014, and its undermining of my attempts to refinance in 2016, have made my losses worse.  I also allege the bank has breached various parts of the Corporations Act and the ASIC act and possibly the Criminal Code.

2010 saw my family home and my investment property come under a CBA mortgage. This new Loan Application Form (that I had not seen prior to a request for documentation to FOS and the OAIC) states that the commitment level was 142%, and it was clear to the CBA on these figures that my credit arrangements with the bank were structured to fail, as they did. This refinancing procedure was a transparent vehicle to gain security on my family home and to steal my home from me (a procedure noted in other cases of small business customers defaulted by their bank lenders).  They secured this loan by enticing me with discounts of a Wealth Package.

When CBA sold Reuben Court in 2012 it destroyed my income source and the location of my small businesses.  I had requested to sell off the Abbott St property to pay off the problem loan as this, in my view, was a much more sensible option.  This would have left me with income and with my commercial property.  The bank said NO.  This made my later losses and failure inevitable. The bank’s conduct in refusing to work with me to mutual benefit in this period was unconscionable and the process itself deceitful and a breach of the Code of Banking Practice and of the Corporations Act.

Contrary to what the Bank’s General Counsel said in his 5th May 2016 letter to me justifying the bank’s position, or in his evidence to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Joint Committee into The Impairment of Customer Loans on 4 April 2016, my case is more than just a sad case in which the bank had no obligation to me. I have been grievously wronged, as found by FOS, as accepted by a CBA barrister who made the following statement on the 10th February 2016 in the Supreme Court of Tasmania “and if the plaintiff were to prove every fact that she alleges, then she may well have a successful claim for damages”.  I have the evidence and can prove every claim.  This statement was then backed up by the following statement by AsJ Holt “Well, Ms Burge – Mr ... will correct me if I’m wrong about this – but for the purpose of your application, he’ll concede that your writ raises causes of action which you have a realistic chance of winning”.   I couldn’t understand then or now how one could possibly lose their properties with admissions in a court of law such as these by both Counsel for CBA and the Associate Judge?

My claim includes damages. However compensation alone cannot put me and my daughter back into the position we previously enjoyed before the bank’s unconscionable conduct because my family home and personal belongings, built up over 25 years, cannot be replaced in money terms and the relationship between my daughter and I will probably never be returned to where it was.

On the 26th February 2016 CBA took possession of my family home.  I had barricaded myself inside my family home as taking this from my daughter and I was wrong.  CBA then ordered a Police battering ram, to ram the front door down and I reluctantly was forced to give up possession of my family home.

On Monday 22 August 2016 the bank informed me that it had fixed Elphin Road for sale on 23 September 2016. I promptly put the real estate agent on notice that to sell my property is wrong as there are current legal actions in regards to this and other property. The real estate company continued with the sale of my property. It was auctioned under most unusual circumstances. No contracts or information were handed out on the day. The property was sold at auction at way under value. According to the CBA solicitor they gave the purchaser an extended time to settle (namely 60 days to 22 of November 2016). This does not happen at an auction. The purchaser was then given a further extension to settle (22 December 2016). It is only now that a large skip is parked out the front of my family home and the interior of a Heritage property has now been stripped. On 21 November 2016 (the day before the first settlement date) I put CBA, CBA solicitors and the real estate company on notice that any transfer of title on my property was wrong and I allege deceptive and misleading conduct in regards to this and other properties I own. They continued to ignore my request to cease transferring title until my matter is heard in a fair Court of Law.

The Tasmanian Supreme Court of Tasmania has acted contrary to law (namely not allowing me to show cause as was my right under Section 146.2), we took our matter to the High Court, which informed us that we must go back to the Tasmanian Supreme Court to appeal. The Federal Court in Sydney has made the same judgment.

On 4 November 2016 we came before Chief Justice Alan Blow in the Tasmanian Supreme Court in regards to an Urgent Hearing for a special leave to appeal. Blow CJ refused, in spite of knowing that mistakes were made by Holt AsJ. Appealing his decision in Tasmania would be fruitless. We would never be given the right to a fair hearing, I believe, in the Tasmanian Supreme Court. 

On 19 December 2016 we came before Judge Foster in the Sydney Supreme Court in relation to my matter once again. My current barrister asked that Judge Foster excuse himself as he had already refused our application previously. Judge Foster refused to excuse himself. The decision is reserved and we are still waiting on our right to a Fair Trial as is my right under the Humans Rights Act.

The theft continued after the sale of my family home.  I was taxed $86,065.00 for legal fees in relation to the writ against the bank that I was wrongfully ordered to do if I wanted to set aside or vary the mortgages?  I was charged $14,623.15 for the possession order (I didn’t get to defend), I was charged $10,484.86 just for insurance on the Elphin Road property (no contents).  I was then charged $726.82 to replace glass in the window that was broken by the bank’s agents even after I had paid all this money for insurance?  The charge of $8266.72 to paint, garden and general maintenance is for what?  Why would you replace a hot water cylinder for $1800.00?  it certainly did not add to the amount the property was sold for?  Fees to wrongfully remove my property from my home are $14,787.95 and $628.98 and then those removalists concerned trashed and stole my property? Then I was charged a further $5780.38 for Conveyancing Fees?  I have never seen an invoice for any of these amounts and my continual requests for them have gone ignored.

Lives have been destroyed and will never return to where they were. The Courts protect the perpetrators and the innocent are sent to a life of hell! Hopefully whomever reads this will agree that Justice must prevail.  Those that have committed these heinous acts or alleged crimes must be held accountable!

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Above are items Suzi says a firm of removalists (ordered by the bank) damaged:  “The absolute devastation of seeing all things you hold dear trashed or stolen, is beyond belief.  My daughter’s trophies were trashed, fridges and other whitegoods that look like they had been dragged along the concrete, antiques broken, pictures smashed, an antique lamp just thrown in a box (not wrapped), actually a good deal of what I own has been destroyed.  The Make – A – Wish tin my daughter and I had been putting loose change in had been prized open and the contents removed.  The picture of the box of items is what most boxes look like.  Hundreds and hundreds of cartons.  The contents of my freezer was thrown into the garbage.  I asked could I get my food out and even give it to a charity?  CBA said NO.  Police reports have been filed and they have advised me to lodge another report when the remainder of my items have been unpacked.  I am struggling to collect the remainder of my items, I have nowhere to store them, no money to pay and I feel physically ill every time I have to face the task of cleaning up the mess.  CBA refuses to claim against the removalist for the damage and the removalists state that as the CBA are the client, only they can claim.  Where does this leave me?  Possibly back to Court to sue for damages.  I will never recover from this ordeal.

Welfare Checks: Why do large Corporations initiate ‘Welfare Checks’?  After initiating them and knowing that the person is struggling these large corporations seem to go in harder for the kill (so to speak) after that check?  This makes no sense to all that have been subjected to them?  What should happen is the realisation that the person is struggling and they should be made to ‘back off’ by law.  They should be made to work with that person or persons in order to make sure that a suitable outcome is achieved and that this person survives.  I now have regular counselling and psychologist appointments to deal with what the bank has done to me.  I know of many that haven’t survived.  In this instance the Banks should be ethically and morally responsible for their actions and that includes recognising the client is in trouble and that their ‘welfare’ is the only real important issue, instead of putting their own greed before the Welfare of the client.

Change must happen.  My matter was brought before the Parliamentary Inquiry into Customer Impaired Loans 4/4/2016 whereby CBA was grilled over my matter.  CBA Counsel gave an undertaking in that Inquiry to take my matter seriously and “Reduce the loan amount by the amount of excessive lending”.  CBA failed to do as they said they would.  My matter was seen as unjust in that Inquiry.  My matter was then brought before the ASBFEO – Kate Carnell’s Inquiry into Banks.  Out of 23 cases Australia-wide that they chose to look into, I am one of the 8 ‘Deep Dive’ cases.  I appeared before the panel of experts and again my matter was seen as unjust.  I brought my case to the attention of the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department requesting urgent funding in my matter.  Again they saw my matter as unjust and as the ‘Test Case’ and are funding my matter before the Courts. 

I am just an Aussie mum who has worked hard all her life.  My daughter and I didn’t deserve to be subjected to these heinous acts that have been inflicted upon us.  Nothing can replace the loss of family or the loss of a family home of 25 years.  We must all stand together to make a difference against the unconscionable conduct of the banks.  If we can stop this from happening to just one person/family/small business or farmer then the fight will be worth it!

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Comment 38 ...

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