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Sonia and Paco emerge victorious

Following the loss of their home, and after 94 days of confrontation during which time Sonia and Paco have been chained to a fence outside the BBVA de Alfonso El Sabio, close to the Alicante Central Market, the bank has finally agreed to reduce their 135,000 debt euro to just 10,000 which the couple have agreed to pay back over the next 15 years.

In addition, Sonia’s parents aged, 74 and 77, who acted as their guarantors, will no longer have to pay 160 euros a month following their default.

Having obtained a mortgage from the bank three years ago the couple, who have two young girls, lost their home in 2013.

The tug of war with BBVA began when the couple became unemployed. During the first months, they were able to meet the mortgage payment from their unemployment benefits but when this was reduced they were forced to request a loan extension of an additional 11,000 euros.

Far from solving the problem, the situation worsened. Almost 40,000 euros in debt their benefits were stopped and it became impossible for them to deal with their monthly bills.

They ended up being evicted and the house was auctioned. During this process, the couple held talks with BBVA, initially suggesting a payment proposal for their outstanding debt but the company would not budge.

On December 23 Paco chained himself outside the bank but all the time negotiations continued. He was offered a reduction of his debt – 110,000 euros to 35,000 – payable for 12 years at almost 300 euros a month, but from a total income of 426 euros per month, 75 euros of which went to pay for their social housing, the couple rejected the proposal.

The couple then enlisted the help of the Platform Affected by Mortgage (PAH) in Alicante while the pair continued to camp outside the branch as leverage. “The first night we tried to sleep in the ATM machine but the security firm alerted police and we were kicked out”, Paco said. Finally they decided to sleep in the open air accompanied by several members of the platform.

What began as an act of protest turned into an encampment. There were several mattresses, sofa, tables, chairs and three tents. "There is no way that we are going to from here until they accept [the bank] our conditions," Paco said 80 days ago.

And the couple’s actions were finally rewarded last Wednesday when they were called into the bank and the new terms agreed. Importantly the agreement states that the debt will not be inherited by the children in the unlikely event that it is not paid off by Paco and Sonia. “That was one particularly important clause that we insisted be included” the couple said.

Sonia, meanwhile, has thanked the PAH and other associations in Altea and Valencia that provided their support, as well as the thousands of people who gave their support or provided food and hot drinks.

For their part, the BBVA confirmed the agreement and pointed out that "this was not the first time that they had been offered a debt repayment plan". "We have never stopped looking for solutions", said a bank spokesman.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/46991/

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