Sign of the times: Vehicles seized by banks after owners could not keep up with payments are under lock and key in Southside, awaiting sale. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Sign of the times: Vehicles seized by banks after owners could not keep up with payments are under lock and key in Southside, awaiting sale. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

Around 20 vehicles are parked in compounds around the island after banks seized them owing to non-payment of debt.

A total of 17 cars and taxis repossessed by Butterfield Bank and Capital G are impounded at a site in Southside in the east end of the island, as well as several motorbikes.

HSBC has two more vehicles parked at a site owned by them elsewhere on the island.

All the vehicles are to be sold off as the banks attempt to recoup money owed to them — with the possibility of bargains for bargain-hunting buyers.

It appears to be a stark illustration of the effect job losses and recession are having on islanders.

But some lenders were reluctant to discuss the numbers of cars seized by them — or whether the numbers of cars repossessed had increased as the slump drags on.

A spokeswoman for HSBC said it had two repossessed cars — and had no connection with the site at Southside.

She added: “We have, and will continue to assist, customers facing financial challenges and will continue to be available to help guide customers through financial challenges successfully. We encourage customers to contact us when faced with challenges so we can understand their specific circumstances.

“We have specialists available who are willing to work with customers, to look at their financial budgeting and help them understand the options that are available to them.”

A spokeswoman for Capital G declined to discuss the number of cars they hold, citing customer confidentiality — even though disclosing the number of cars held could not be used to identify clients. But she added: “Capital G Bank Limited has customers that are experiencing challenges in a very difficult economy. We work with our customers to customize payment plans as far as is practically possible. It is our policy not to discuss any client’s personal affairs without authorization.”

She did, however, include a phone number and email address for anyone interested in bidding for the impounded vehicles.

A spokesman for Butterfield Bank said the firm had only “a handful” of repossessed cars on their books.

He added: “Although the ongoing economic difficulties in Bermuda have had some impact on our loan portfolio, the incidence of late payments and defaults is well within tolerances and the Bank has adequately provisioned for the same. There has not been a marked increase in the number of vehicles repossessed as a result of non-payment loans over the past twelve months, and the Bank currently has only a handful of vehicles in its possession as a consequence of loan defaults.

“Should customers experience difficulties in making payments on their car loans — or any credit facility — we encourage them to contact us to discuss how we can assist in making payments more manageable. The seizure of assets is considered only when alternative solutions cannot be agreed with a customer.”

Sealed bid

One source, who made enquiries to a local bank after seeing the Southside compound, said he had been told to submit a sealed bid on the vehicle he was interested in.

Honey Adams, of Government’s Consumer Affairs department, said their website had a section on debt management and what to do if people fall foul of lenders.

She added: “My advice to people who find themselves in financial difficulty is to work with your creditors — do not avoid them. Before you fall behind in paying your bills contact your creditors and explain the situation so that you can work together to find a solution.

“Show them your budget and discuss how and when you intend to pay them back. Ask about temporarily lowering or suspending your payments and put everything in writing because these steps may not save you from getting bad credit, but it shows that you are making an effort, and it may help you if you end up in court.” 

The Family Centre’s Martha Dismont said: “I do not know the numbers, but we are seeing many families who are fighting to survive without gainful employment and consequently we will see a growing challenge with regard to accumulated debt. I spoke with someone in the corporate sector yesterday who suggested that the social sector could consider implementing a service to assist families with financial budgeting and general income management. She suggested partnership with the private sector to do this. Easier said than done.”

More information at the consumer affairs website at http://www.ca.gov.bm/consumers/saving_money.asp

Anyone interested in making an offer on vehicles repossessed by Capital G should phone 279-5240 or email offers@capitalg.bm.