Sharon James was evicted for her family home of 19 years last Thursday after not paying her bills for two years.
Sharon James was evicted for her family home of 19 years last Thursday after not paying her bills for two years. Campbell Gellie

Grandmother of seven evicted from home of 19 years

IT WAS the Eimeo beach shack where Sharon James raised her youngest son but after living there for 19 years the grandmother of seven has been evicted.

When her real estate business failed in 2005, Ms James took on a loan with Pepper Financial Services to pay her debts and her mortgage. .

She had lived in the Wall St home since 1997 but that all came to an end when the bailiff removed her from the tin and wood shack, that itself was relocated from Mt Morgan to Mackay in 1958, for not making a repayment in two years.

After trying to pay off the loan for nine years, she came to the conclusion she wouldn't be able to pay it off and stopped making repayments, losing her home as a result.

Ms James once helped people buy and sell property but when her real estate business failed in 2005 she was "desperate", $70,000 in debt for the business and she still owed $70,000 on the house.

"NAB wouldn't lend me more money because I owed too much and I wasn't working," she said.

"A friend suggested using another company and I borrowed about $140,000 from (Pepper Financial Services) on the equity of the house, which covered the business debt and existing mortgage."

A single mother, Ms James said she was paying $2000 a month and, when it ended, it was $2200.

"I didn't know the legal aspect of the contract when I got the loan and how much it would end up costing," she said.

Pepper Group would not comment on Ms James' circumstances as a matter of policy but a spokesperson said the company worked closely with its broker partners to educate and ensure applicants were provided with all of the information to make a decision about their loan applications.

"We also work with our partners to ensure customers are provided with information on the processes and support options in place if they are unable to make loan repayments," the spokesperson said.

Ms James said that over the nine years from 2005 she paid $148,000 on the loan and still owed a further $200,000.

"People need to be aware of what they are getting into," she said.

She said that in 2012 she worked out she would be paying off the loan "for the rest of her life" and decided to try to negotiate the terms.

But two years of negotiations went nowhere and in 2014 she stopped making repayments and was aware the banks would eventually take her home.

"By hearing about my story people might be able to learn through my experience," she said.

"If you're aware you can make the right choice. It's never been about the ownership, it's about people aren't aware of what they are getting into."

With one in every 875 Mackay residents going bankrupt, Ms James is not the only person in the region concerned about debt collectors. The latest figures from the Australian Financial Security Authority, for the September quarter, show 96 insolvencies in Mackay, up from 91 in the June quarter. The region was the third worst in Queensland for the total number of debtors, behind Townsville with 131 and Ormeau-Oxenford with 99.

Mackay also had one of the highest number of business-related personal insolvencies in the state, with 21.

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