A couple ordered to sell their #400,000 Birmingham home after losing a legal battle against a money lender have spoken of their despair at not being able to provide an inheritance for their family.
Lynda and Dennis Maher bought their detached house in Kings Heath 20 years ago for #66,500.
But independent money lender Karl Slack, who they borrowed money from to invest in a Spanish development, took them to court for not keeping up with repayments. He had a charge on the house and the Mahers contested the legal action but lost.
At Birmingham County Court they were ordered by Judge Heather Swindells QC to sell the property. They now have until January 8 to move out.
Mr Maher, a 57-year-old carpenter and joiner, and his 55-year-old wife, a sales assistant at a bakery, told the court how they had been encouraged to invest in the Spanish scheme by a client of Mr Maher, a man called Lee McIntosh.
He acted as the couple's financial adviser and encouraged them to borrow #105,000 from Mr Slack, the court heard.
They were later to learn McIntosh had been jailed for a VAT fraud. He was brought to court from prison to give evidence in their case.
The court heard how the couple remortgaged their home to save time and free up their money. The #105,000 loan was repaid.
Mr Maher claimed McIntosh then persuaded him to take out another high interest loan, this time for #40,000.
Mr Maher told the court he forged his wife's signature but claimed he did so in a way that would be obvious and would result in no transaction taking place. They also claimed in court that they never received that money.
Months later, the Mahers received a letter saying their house was about to be repossessed. They were later told by their legal team that the Spanish property never existed.
Mr Slack sued them for #243,482 which he claimed was the total amount owed – the #40,000 plus interest over three years.
Mrs Maher last night said she was devastated by the result and desperate to find somewhere to live.
"We are gutted. It is our kids' inheritance gone," she said. "Our barristers are going to appeal to the House of Lords and then the European Courts."
The couple have three children, all in their 30s.
Looking around his living room, Mr Maher said: "We were lucky to get this.
"It had an absolutely wonderful garden that was just idyllic. It was everything that we wanted."
Mr Slack said he felt sorry for the couple but all he wanted was his money back. He said: "I know I am going to be the villain here because I'm the lender.
"My heart goes out to them. I'm not a bad man, I'm just a money lender. When they took out this loan from me, it wasn't to build an extension, it was for a business opportunity.
"They got into something for profit – not to feed their children – but buyer beware at all times. I gave them until after Christmas to stay in the house and I won't be pushing to make their life any more uncomfortable."