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Unlikely ally trying to help elderly Edmonton couple facing home foreclosure

WATCH ABOVE: An elderly couple could be evicted from their home after financial confusion left them owing tens of thousands of dollars in missed mortgage payments and taxes. Sarah Kraus reports.

Eric and Jean Bishop have lived in a historic home in Fulton Place for 52 years, but this is shaping up to be their last as the bank is foreclosing on their house.

According to Eric, the house was built on land once owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company. It was purchased by a dairy farmer named Charles Morris, who built a farmhouse on the site in 1906. About 60 years later, the Bishops purchased the home.

“We thought it’d be ideal for our boys because there were trees they could climb. Eric made a tree-house,” Jean said.

“There was lots of space and land, just like we had in England… They were absolutely delighted because it had two bathrooms.”

But over time, the now 113-year-old house needed substantial repairs: a new roof, insulated walls, updated electricity and plumbing. The Bishops re-mortgaged their home.

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Their payments were set up as direct withdrawal but at some point, they just stopped coming out. Apparently there was an issue with a new type of security clearance for direct deposits. The Bishops say they had no idea.

“I always felt secure that we were paying our mortgage,” 83-year-old Jean said.

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“I never questioned it.”

Eric and a lawyer from legal aid went through his bank statements. He says he has a sworn affidavit that there was always enough money in the account to pay the mortgage at the start of the month.

“The money has always been there for them to take and if they didn’t take it, I don’t know why,” he said.

“It seems so unnecessary. Why would it happen? It shouldn’t have happened at all. There was no reason for it.”

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At around the same time, he suffered a stroke and was temporarily moved into an assisted living facility.

The couple tried to sell their house at that point but were unsuccessful.

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When Eric recovered, they moved back in, not realizing something serious had gone wrong.

They’d been receiving help from the province in paying their property taxes. When they moved into a seniors’ facility temporarily, that support disappeared. They were left on their own to pay the property taxes but they say they didn’t realize that.

In June, a court order was issued and the couple was given six months to leave.

“We were told: pay us $40,000 or we would have to get out of the house in the middle of January, which we thought was not a very nice Christmas present,” Eric explained.

The problem was the Bishops didn’t have that kind of lump sum available.

“After the first week or two of the month, whatever money was left in the account was ours to do whatever we liked with because the bank would have already taken whatever they wanted it for, the mortgage and any local taxes.”

That’s when local realtor Ken Morrison got involved.

“In January, I got a call asking if I want to take over a foreclosure,” he said. “They said it was a sensitive one because the homeowner was still in the home. That’s not generally what happens.”

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He had no idea that the listing he was taking on would tug at his heart the way it has. Morrison sees his grandparents in the Bishops.

“They don’t deserve this kind of stress. They should be out enjoying life.”

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Their story shocked him and he decided he wanted to help them keep their home, not evict them.

“I listed it at an aggressive price, which generally means a bit high. Just to give them a bit more time,” Morrison said.

He set up a GoFundMe to try and raise enough money to get the bank to cancel the foreclosure (about $40,000) and maybe even enough to pay the Bishop’s mortgage. As of Monday afternoon, it had raised more than $11,000.

“I think they deserve to own the house. I think they deserve to be in the house as long as they want and I think they deserve the right to do what they want with the house.”

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The Bishops say they have the means to make their mortgage payments, if the bank allows them to restart.

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“I would like to stay here, keep on paying our mortgage,” Jean said.

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