Housing Minister: 'Computer error' caused HDC homeowners to overpay mortgages

Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis -
Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis -

HOUSING Minister Camille Robinson-Regis says HDC (Housing Development Corporation) homeowners who overpaid their mortgages that work is being done to ensure they are refunded.

She was responding to several complaints from callers on radio station I95.5 FM's morning show on Monday.

A number of callers said they had received letters from the HDC as far back as 2013 and 2015 indicating a mistake had been made and that the HDC now owes them, as they overpaid their mortgages.

Robinson-Regis said the cause was a "computer error" which has since been fixed.

Until then, the system "had not been able to indicate that these people already paid off their mortgages and consequently, both from the standpoints of the banks and the HDC, they did not stop the payments. So the payments were continually taken out of people's accounts."

She said she has asked the HDC to write to every homeowner it owes money to because of this error, as well as clarify the total owed to each person.

"We have started paying some of them, and we will continue the payments."

Robinson-Regis said that under the People's Partnership administration, "A company had been employed to examine what was taking place with probable overpayments, but it seems that issue was never resolved...so we are now trying to make sure it's resolved."

Asked the total number of homeowners affected and the total amount of money owed, she said she did not have that data at the time.

But because the issue has been resolved, she said the ministry does not "anticipate that there would be any recent situations."

She also told the homeowners the process will "take some time."

Speaking with Newsday, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal – who was housing minister in 2013 and 2015 – said the claim that the issue stemmed from his administration is "a remarkable piece of madness and incompetence.

"In my time, I knew of renters owing the HDC money. I never heard in my life of the HDC owing money to homeowners.

"So in eight years, they could not fix a 'computer glitch'? They must pay back homeowners with interest. This level of maladministration was unheard of under Jearlean John (former HDC managing director) and her high-performance team."

John told Newsday a company had indeed been hired, but not just to deal with overpayments.

"They came in to get the accounts in order for the examination by the auditor. You're basically going through all your line items and, of course, your rental base, and people who are purchasing will be a part of that."

She said she was unaware of any computer error that caused such issues during her time at the HDC.

Before her tenure, she said, some people were given houses under a licence-to occupy arrangement.

"So it was a sort of transient legal arrangement where they will take this money to the HDC, and I think 90 per cent would have been put towards their eventual mortgage, and ten per cent would have been retained for the rental.

"We met that there, and we continued the arrangement, because people could not have – even if you gave them the houses – gone to the bank and gotten a mortgage. There were a number of things outstanding – approval from WASA, Town and Country Planning...

"So I believe what happened, then, was when they eventually got their deed, during that transition period, it could have been that they kind of paid a licence to occupy and would have made a mortgage payment."

The HDC's website says a licence to occupy arrangement is "issued to a customer when the customer is assessed and deemed to qualify for a mortgage for a property on a site that has not been vested in the HDC."

It added that for a site to be vested, the HDC must have full title to the property and that this type of agreement "does not give the customer title (ownership) to the property.

"Once the site has been vested the HDC will approach the customer to convert to mortgage."

The website also says, under "mortgage conversion," that failure to access mortgages may result in the HDC taking the following actions: withdrawing expired licence-to-occupy agreements, evicting errant licence-to-occupy holders from properties, and voiding and closing licence-to-occupy payment accounts.

Newsday contacted the HDC for further details but no response was provided up to press time.


"Housing Minister: ‘Computer error’ caused HDC homeowners to overpay mortgages"

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