How To Own Things When You’re A Woman

Almost exactly a year ago, my husband and I bought a house together. A huge moment for me, as I had not bought a house before. My husband had, and we decided to stay with his bank: ABN AMRO. We figured that they already had most of our financial details, which should make things easier…. Right?

Wrong. Oh, how very wrong we were.

I won’t go into the trouble we had even getting the mortgage on the house. Let me just say that it took over 50 documents, daily phone calls, and 33.000 euros more than the bank had originally quoted us to get the house.

It was worth it in the end, but I’m never doing that again if I can help it. Side note advice: get yourself a decent financial advisor. Most of our issues were due to the bank advisor’s inability to provide us with proper assistance.

That being said: we bought the house. Signed the mortgage and ownership papers at the notary office. Got the keys, fixed it up, and have been loving living here since. So far, so good.

Until recently, when I discovered that I wasn’t actually allowed to pull up any information on my own mortgage.

You’ll need your husband’s permission

One of my hobbies is budgeting. Not kidding. I love making sure we have our financial stuff in order. It makes me feel secure and I honestly feel that being financially savvy is a feminist issue.

I have a plan in place that will allow us to buy a new kitchen next year using the money we saved (instead of taking out a loan and paying that off). That is a powerful feeling!

Me being me, I started looking ahead and wondering what our best course of action should be after the kitchen is paid for. One of the options is to pay off our mortgage faster than the 30 years we signed for (no way in hell I’ll still be paying for a mortgage when I’m retired!).

So, in order to do some research, I logged into our banking platform; I had seen that we had a nice overview of our mortgage in there when my husband had been logged in a while before.

There was no mortgage information under my account. Confused, I logged out and back in again, this time using my husband’s details. Under his account, the mortgage details were there.

Weird. I triple checked my own account, determined that there really wasn’t any way I could bring up the same information when my details were being used instead of my husband’s.

Confused, I called up ABN AMRO’s helpdesk. Here’s how that conversation went, approximately:

Lady: “Hi there, how may I help you?

Me: “Hi – this is Ines van Essen. I’m calling because I’m a bit confused. I don’t appear to have access to my mortgage information. When I use my husband’s account, I can see all of our details, his and mine. When logged into my account, that same information isn’t there.”

Lady: “That’s strange. Let me take a look at that.”

Lady: “……………………….. Hello, ma’am? Yeah, so I looked things over, and it appears that all mortgage information is listed under your husband’s name.”

Me: “Okay… But my name is on the mortage contract.”

Lady: “Yes ma’am. We made an error – sorry for the inconvenience.”

Me: “That’s alright, can you adjust it please so I have access from now on?”

Lady: “No ma’am – you’ll need your husband’s permission for that. Please visit one of our offices together – your husband should bring his ID with him.”

Fair is fair: the lady I spoke to was friendly and quick to agree that the situation was rather ridiculous. She couldn’t however, provide any other information on the mortgage (think rates, current height of the mortgage, anything).

I felt ripped out of my own time, Outlander style, and thrown 100 years back in history. In order to access information on something I owned, my husband had to accompany me and sign a paper that said he’d allow me access.

My… I Mean, My Husband’s New Car

About 10 months ago, I needed a new car. We somehow always end up having car trouble and after a bit of calculation, we figured that a private lease was actually a good choice. We normally never go for leases on anything, but this whole thing would end up costing us less than buying a second-hand car.

I had never owned anything so new and expensive. Like, ever. I have a hard time buying new clothes, let alone get a brand new car, including new car smell. I was excited, okay – and cars have never really excited me.

I filled in the paperwork myself. Form 1 was for the requesting party’s details – mine. The second form was for the main party’s spouse (because they need to consent, understandably – it’s a loan, after all), meaning my husband. All was well and I was approved for the loan within days.

Car pickup day came around and I practically hop-skipped to the dealership. We were welcomed, I could already see the car under a big cloth in the back of the shop, it was awesome.

Until it was time to sign. The man getting everything ready presented my husband with the paperwork and asked him to sign.

Confused, I looked from my husband to the salesman. “But… It’s my car.” I said. “My name was on form one.”

“Oh,” the salesman shrugged. “I guess they made a mistake. Everything is already registered in Mr. Van Essen’s name, though, soooo….”

My husband signed the papers and we took the car home. I got to drive – but all the excitement had gone out of the experience.

About Speaking Up

It took four weeks, 1 trip to the ABN AMRO office (while extremely pregnant and unable to walk or stand for more than a minute), five phone calls with five different people, extra paperwork, three departments, and one official complaint to get the issue with my mortgage fixed.

We were promised that things would be resolved twice, only to find out later that not even a note of our request had been made. The paperwork we were sent was wrong; it would give me power of attorney over the account, but not ownership.

The car lease salesman promised that they would adjust the registration on the car right away. Ten months on, it still hasn’t been changed. I’ve given up asking.

With each individual occurrence, I’ve been asked whether it’s really necessary to have the details changed is really needed. My husband and I are married, so it doesn’t make any difference whose name is on the contract.

But what if that changes? Nevermind the frustration when yet another person assumes everything should be in my husband’s name. If my husband and I were to get a divorce (we’re not, but if) and I have no access to my own financial details without his permission, that would make it harder for me to leave.

In the same situation, I would be left without a car – it’s not in my name, so I have no right to it. I need a car, as I have a disability that prevents me from using my bike for everything.

Had I been in an abusive relationship, both these situations would impact my ability to leave so significantly, I doubt I would be able to at all. (Let me be very clear: I am not in such a relationship, my husband is a wonderful man, is as appalled as I am at both occurrences and has done everything in his power to help rectify things).

Having the correct name on a contract matters. With both the car and the mortgage, the big problem turned out to be the same: not the initial error, but getting it fixed.

The point of this post: don’t let things like this slide. Speak up, especially if it concerns your partner. Don’t assume that just because it’s not needed now, it doesn’t need fixing. Put in the effort.

Also: being financially independent is super duper important, even if your relationship is awesome. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

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