Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Help Me Howard: Co-Sign Sin
You may have been asked by a brother, a sister, a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Someone you trust who says, "I need you to co-sign so I can buy this car." They will promise to pay off the loan, but what can you do when they miss a payment? It's why one man called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you are like most of us, you never even think of retirement. However, if you get there, John Haggerty says you will like it.
John Haggerty: "Just not having to get up in the morning and get on the road, not being rushed, being able to do things at my own pace."
Since clocking out two years ago, John has been fixing up his house after trying to fix up his nephew's life.
John Haggerty: "I ran into him and I said I honestly heard that you were dead."
John's nephew was down on his luck, living in a homeless shelter.
John Haggerty: "He asked if he could move in and I said yes."
The nephew was his late sister's son and at first, things went well.
John Haggerty: "Everything was fine, things were good, we'd laugh. For the longest time, we had more fun reminiscing about this, that, his parents and good times."
It turns out his nephew had a lot of problems. To help him get back on his feet and get to a job, John agreed to co-sign a loan for a car.
John Haggerty: "At this point, it was a relative. There was a bond of trust, almost love. You can love your nephew."
You might now describe John as a wonderful, caring guy trying to help his dead sister's son. John would describe himself a little differently.
John Haggerty: "If you look up the word fool in the dictionary, you'll see my picture."
That's because his nephew made the car payments for awhile even though some were partial or late, then six months ago stopped paying completely.
John Haggerty: "The person I co-signed this car for is not the person that exists now."
The finance company then started calling John, telling him, 'You need to pay for your nephew's car.'
John Haggerty: "It's his car. I only co-signed. They say, 'You co-signed, you're responsible.'"
John did make a few payments. In the meantime, his nephew moved out and disappeared. However, he did send John some e-mails taunting him.
John Haggerty: "He puts in there, 'You'll never see my car.'"
The final insult, the nephew quit paying the insurance on the car. John was trying to help him get back on his feet; instead, John has been knocked off his.
John Haggerty: "And I never thought that a relative would do this to me. I just never thought it would happen. Oh boy, it did."
Co-signing the loan has ruined John's credit, wrecked his life and left him with one simple question: How can he get out of this mess?
Howard Finkelstein: "John's best solution is to work with the lender, get them to repossess the car. He can then go pick it up, sell it or start making payments, but he needs to get it resolved before his nephew the car and leaves with him with the bill for it."
In a statement, the lender told us, "We are going to work with John on this, and have given him several options to meet his contractual obligations." John said they told him they will try what he called a half-way repossession, meaning take the car from his nephew and give it to John to make the payments.
That will get John out of his mess, and Howard says hopefully be a warning to anyone who has a big heart.
Howard Finkelstein: "When you co-sign just assume you are signing for the vehicle. Your name is on the contract and if that person misses a payment or stops like John's nephew did, you are stuck with the bills."
John was stuck and learned one thing: he won't trust a family member again.
John Haggerty: "It angers me. It really angers me and disappoints me. I don't deserve it. I was too nice a person."
Patrick Fraser: "I did speak to John's nephew. He wasn't happy to hear from me. He called his uncle a few names, said he was paying for the car and nobody was getting it. A few hours later, the car was repossessed. John says he hopes to have it soon and has a couple of people who want to buy it. Finally his generosity nightmare will be over."
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CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com