My husband ended our marriage when I was 6 weeks pregnant with our second child. Five months later, he still refused to leave the house I had been paying the mortgage on for the last 3 years. Stress wise, I had to go. So I rented a flat in another town. A year after my daughter was born, I had sucked up a 50% split of the finances, three court custody appearances, and more stress than I could have ever imagined.
After all of that, I began to look for a new home, just to get back on the ladder with what little deposit I had. I didn’t qualify for any deals as I had previously owned a home (not a first time buyer).
The first approval I had was pulled with no good reason given, but three weeks later, I finally got a mortgage company (the banks would not even look at me) to agree to a much smaller mortgage, so I could buy a one bedroom flat in town. It was a start, and it would be mine, no more landlords or agents. The day before I was meant to exchange (pay the money to the sellers), the call came again, they had pulled the mortgage. Again, but just a different company. I flipped. I demanded to speak to the manager. And after much hassle, was finally put through. Apparently I had many strikes against me. I was self employed (I had run my own business SUCCESSFULLY and AT A PROFIT) for ten years. But they would only consider the last year of accounts, he said. I was a single parent, and was still on maternity leave, meaning I had only worked 3 of the months in the previous work year before the baby was born. And I had a personal loan (I had taken 10K out so I could stay home for 8 months, I could always pay it back, but I felt my babies needed me with all of the upheaval of the moves and divorce). So, essentially, I was being penalised for being female.
I cut to the chase.
I told the manager that if he refused to give me the mortgage due to the fact I was on maternity leave, which I was legally entitled to, then I would file a complaint against him and the company for sexual discrimination, given that I had the financial track record to satisfy their requirements in real terms. Five minutes later the mortgage was back on track and a week later I had the keys to our new flat.
There is no doubt that in the UK, women are still black marked in the financial sector. We are the carers, not the earners right? We cannot possibly own and manage our own properties! Utter nonsense! But it happened recently again. I had put an offer on a commercial property for my business, and the seller agreed to the terms, before stating, “But of course I will have a letter of confirmation from your bank that they will give you this mortgage.”
I froze. Had I been a man, it would have been a simple handshake, my people will be in touch with your people. But here I am, in 2017, being asked for proof that I can gain finance, simply because I am female.
For all that changes, it all sadly remains the same.
About the Author - Dr. Maryellen Stephens is a professional working single mother of 2 amazing girls. At the time of this article, they live with their yellow lab Sadie in the southwestern UK.