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‘So far our divorce has been amicable but Bank of Ireland is adding significant pressure’

Pricewatch: A couple navigating the difficulties of separating have also had to negotiate a maze of bureaucracy and snail’s-pace responses over house deeds

A Dublin couple who managed to navigate the complicated and emotionally draining experience of divorce with commendable equanimity risked having the process derailed and their relationship badly damaged as a result of their bank’s apparent inability to perform the most rudimentary of tasks.

“I have amicably separated from my wife but we are still living together with our 11 year-old daughter,” begins the mail from a reader we will call Tony.

“By joint agreement we are seeking to remove my wife’s name from our jointly-held mortgage with Bank of Ireland Mortgages and transfer the deeds of our property to my sole name. However, we’re finding it impossible to get Bank of Ireland Mortgages to send the deeds to my solicitor in a timely manner so we can complete the process.”

Tony says the process began in May 2022 and “has involved providing large amounts of personal and financial information [to the bank]. Eventually, Bank of Ireland Mortgages sent me a letter on March 14th, 2023, confirming their agreement to the transfer of the joint mortgage to my sole name subject to some minor extra paperwork. They received the completed application from my solicitor on April 11th. My solicitor estimated that it would take four to six weeks for them to process my claim and send the deeds back to him.”


So far so good – or at least so far not as bad as it might have been. Based on what Tony had been told he was expecting the deeds to be back with his solicitor some time in May.

That did not happen.

“From early May my ex-wife and I have both been ringing Bank of Ireland Mortgages at least once a week to find out when the deeds will be released. All to no avail,” he says.

“In a letter received from Bank of Ireland, a named point of contact for queries in relation to this matter is given, but no personal contact details for this ‘contact person’ were provided,” he writes.

“The only apparent route to this person is via BoI’s main switchboard. We have attempted to contact her several times, to be told on each occasion she is unavailable, but that a team lead will call us back. We have yet to receive such a call back. The length of time for a call to be answered via the switchboard can be as much as 30 minutes, at which point the call is disconnected. This has happened several times, with similar experiences while waiting for calls to be transferred within Bank of Ireland.”

Tony tells us that there is a dedicated menu option for matters relating to deeds. There does not, however, appear to be a dedicated person to pick up the phones in the department. “So far the phone has never been answered there, either when using the direct menu option or being transferred internally via the switchboard.”

Time frames

He writes that for much of June “we have been told by Bank of Ireland Mortgages that our application has been security cleared, been actioned and is just waiting to be processed.

“We have been given various time frames for when the deeds will be sent to my solicitor. These have included mid-May, early June, mid-June and mid-July. The story constantly changes depending on who you talk to. You never talk to the same person twice. A friend we have spoken to who is a family law solicitor has now told us that in her experience the process can take between six and eight months!”

There is time pressure on Tony and his ex-wife as she has already found a new property to buy. “Everything is in place for her purchase apart from the document from BoI confirming transfer of deeds. The vendor is understandably on the verge of pulling out of selling the property to her because of this delay in us receiving the transfer of deeds confirmation. Until we receive this my ex-wife cannot draw down her new mortgage. Should the vendor pull out of the sale, considerable conveyancing fees will be lost in addition to the current mortgage offer expiring and the loss of a property found after a lengthy search within a tight budget.”

Our young daughter is suffering from the uncertainty of not knowing when her mum will finally move

Tony repeats that until this point, the marriage separation “has so been amicable, but the unnecessary delay in Bank of Ireland Mortgages releasing the deeds is, needless to say, creating significant extra pressure on our relationship. Our young daughter is suffering from the uncertainty of not knowing when her mum will finally move.

“I believe that the release of the deeds to my solicitor is a relatively simple process. I do not know why it can be taking so long. Apart from the upset of the delay, the opacity of dealing with Bank of Ireland Mortgages is proving very frustrating. I have had to take half-days from work in order to make time to have my calls to BoI put in a holding queue, often resulting in the calls being disconnected. There has yet to be a call back in spite of many promised; no team lead or supervisor appears to have taken up the file in spite of numerous assurances; and we have no line of sight of the process or the time frame to complete it. I wonder if you can help us?”

There are a couple of things that strike us about this correspondence. First there is the obvious delay in getting the deeds to Tony’s solicitor. Now Pricewatch is not a banker and has zero legal training but it seems to us like this should have been a relatively straightforward process. It might not have been the kind of thing that could happen overnight but certainly it would appear to have been something that could have been resolved in a couple of weeks – or maybe a month, tops.

The other thing is the complete absence of customer service. Now this is something we do know about. Whatever about the delays in getting the documents to our reader, his inability to make contact with the named person who was supposed to be looking after his account and the endless hours he spent on hold and the stream of misinformation from the bank and its employees is absolutely unacceptable if wearily familiar.

So we contacted the bank and within days received a statement from it in which at least some of our concerns were addressed. “We completely understand the customer’s frustration and we are very sorry for the delay and inconvenience this situation has caused. A signed letter of authorisation is required for us to be able to release title deeds. Due to a series of miscommunications on our part, however, it wasn’t made clear to the customer that we had not received this authorisation.

“We contacted the customer’s solicitor last Thursday and, after obtaining the necessary authorisation, we sent the deeds by courier to the customer’s solicitor on Friday morning.

We appreciate the patience shown by the customer and we sincerely apologise for falling short of our customer service standards.”

‘Extra layer of bureaucracy’

So that, we thought was that.

It wasn’t. Almost two weeks later we heard back from Tony.

“I should have known better than to believe that [it] would be the end of our deeds saga,” he wrote. “Turns out the deeds – having been signed today by my ex-wife and me – must now go back to Bank of Ireland Mortgages to be ‘sealed’. We literally only found out this morning about this extra layer of bureaucracy. You’d think someone, either bank or solicitors, would have thought to tell us before. But, hey, we’re only the customers.”

Then, 10 days later and almost four weeks after we received the statement from Bank of Ireland, we heard from Tony again. “We are still waiting for the sealed deeds to be sent back to my solicitor,” he wrote.

We got back on to Bank of Ireland. We got this by way of follow up.

“We issued the deeds on ATR (accountable trust receipt) to the customer’s solicitor on 16th June,” the bank said.

“In order for us to be able to complete the transfer, which is the subsequent step in the conveyancing process, there are three documents outstanding: the deed of confirmation, life policy and fire policy.

“We wrote to the customer’s solicitor on 4th July outlining the outstanding documents and we will be following up with a call. Upon receipt of these documents Bank of Ireland will send the deed of transfer for sealing, amend the mortgage account and return the sealed deed to the solicitor for registration. We completely understand the customer’s urgency and will do everything we can to expedite the remaining steps in the process.”