Bank of Melbourne refunded the money, but continued legal action to reclaim the property, adding its legal fees to her debt.
Ms Anderson ended up representing herself in a four-day trial at the County Court of Victoria. She lost. She appealed to the Supreme Court of Victoria and lost there, too. She is currently facing eviction.
The County Court said the fraud claim was “unfounded”.
“While it is understandable that the appellant [Ms Anderson] felt aggrieved by the bank’s action, neither the bank’s action nor her sense of grievance entitled her to stop making repayments,” the Court of Appeal ruled.
The whole experience was “totally indescribable”, Ms Anderson said, adding that she felt evidence she put before the court was not properly considered.
“In five years, my relationships have suffered, my friendships have fallen by the wayside, I haven’t been able to concentrate on work, my credit profile has been damaged,” she said.
“You also have to rise yourself above it. I did a transcendental meditation course to try and help with the stress.”
She would get nervous appearing in court, sometimes running to the bathroom to throw up.
She said the bank had offered a settlement — costs incurred, lost income, release from the mortgage — if she signed an NDA. She refused.
She feared the bank would use her previously published advocacy on Facebook as a means of having that agreement torn up.
Bank of Melbourne acknowledged it should have communicated better with Ms Anderson before it paid the owners corporation fee.
The bank said it did not try to take advantage of the fact Ms Anderson could not afford legal representation, and noted she did have a lawyer at various stages in the process.
“At all times, including when Ms Anderson was self-represented, the bank’s approach to the litigation was to seek to deal with Ms Anderson fairly and appropriately,” chief executive Michelle Winzer said in a statement.
Ms Winzer emphasised that repossession was a last resort used in a very small number of cases, and said it would work to give Ms Anderson more time to move out of her home.
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