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Sunday 19 November 2017

You can't even sell the house to pay mortgage

PITY the politician who canvasses for votes at the home of Trevor Long, a 36-year-old taxi-driver who lives in Cork city. Trevor is not only at risk of losing his home but his livelihood too. He is €8,000 in arrears with his mortgage, has a car that is about to be put off the road, and has a partner and two children to support.

As he explains his dilemma, he exudes calm, low-key anger. He needs a new car because the taxi regulator introduced new rules that taxis must be less than nine years old when their licences are renewed. Trevor reckons he needs €5,000 to buy a new car so he can keep working.

"I have to change my car in three months and I'm after being refused by three financial institutions for a loan," he says."It's either stay calm or go crazy. There is nobody listening to us about it," he says. "We have been talking to a lot of politicians and councillors to try and abolish this 'nine-year rule' but we don't even have a government at the moment to talk to."

His story is no different to scores of taxi-drivers in Cork. He bought a house in 2005 with his partner. They have two children, the youngest just an infant. Two years ago, he could have earned around €800 a week. These days, he says weekly takings are closer to €200, frequently less. Last week, he reckons there wasn't a taxi-driver in Cork who earned more than €100. When his earnings started to drop, he struggled to meet the monthly mortgage repayments of €987. Over a year ago, he fell into arrears. "The money just wasn't coming in. I just didn't have it," he says. "I am trying to give them something every week, just to let them know I am trying."

He works for six nights and five days every week: "I could do 15 hours a day but there could be passengers in the car for two hours," he says. Whatever he earns goes primarily on "baby food and bit of electricity in the house, that's if it's there to spend," he says. "The days of going for pints have gone. There is no social life whatsoever."

Trevor and his partner don't get social welfare and if he loses his taxi, he can't claim the dole because he is self-employed.

Meanwhile, his mortgage arrears continue to mount. So what can he do? "I really don't know. You can't even sell the house because it won't pay off the mortgage. If you do sell the house, you won't get a house from the council because you have surrendered a house that you had. So you are in a catch 22."

He is staying put. "Where am I going to go? It's not like I can move somewhere else. I don't have the money to pay for rent. I mean, I can't pay a mortgage. It'll be a case of put two Rottweilers outside the door and make sure nobody comes in."

He says many taxi-driver colleagues are in the same boat; some are far worse off than he is. He is waiting for the moment when he is at home to receive politicians of a particular hue looking for votes. As for what he would say? "That's not for your ears. But I might have a plate of cheese to hand them."

Sunday Independent

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