Our Adventure in Hebrew Bank Documents
I barely get by in broken Hebrew. (I will go back to ulpan, I will, I will, as soon as this adventure in real estate is finished!) The Husband speaks fairly decent kibbutz Hebrew, and certainly enough to get by in his job at the police department, but he's no whiz at reading it either. After all, we're not dealing with the alphabet here.
You try reading words that are totally different letters and from which the vowels are dropped (vowels are for children--adult words don't have them).
The child reads: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
The adult reads: Thqck brwn fx jmps vr thlzy dg.
Now put this into legalese.....
We never go anywhere or deal with anything contractual without Yossi. I don't trust our attorney generally because she now has a track record of poor lawyering, in my own attorney-opinion. Nor do I trust her with the re-issued bank documents on the mortgage which she has hustled up, since she has a conflict of interest: her goal is to get us to sign these documents as fast as possible and get her out from under a potential malpractice suit.
We go the Bank Leumi's Head Guy In Charge Of Problems With Mortgages. You have to get by security to see this guy. He has the new contract all prepared, as our attorney promised.
He asked for our identifications, which we provide. He next pushed the entire contract, several inches of paper, towards us, and directs us to sign the first page. This will take some time: if you've never seen a bank contract in Israel, even for something as simple as opening a checking account, you'd be surprised. Several trees died to make this contract.
"What am I signing?" I asked.
He looked taken aback. First, there were two men present and the female was talking. Obviously it surprised him that I was asking the question instead of my husband or Yossi.
"She's an attorney in the United States," Yossi explained.
Bank Guy pursed his lips, looked pained, and told me its the mortgage. Yes, I know that but WHAT am I signing and where is the payment schedule.
"We'll get to that," he tells me.
Wrong answer, buster. I picked up the entire sheaf of paper and began paging through it. My husband, accustomed to my attitude towards contracts, simply waits. Yossi, who doesn't want me to tick off the bank, tries to assure me it's okay. I keep leafing through the contract, looking for shekel amounts.
We go ahead and start signing the boilerplate stuff but I'm still leafing through the rest of the contract looking for some sign that money is involved. Finally, I find a page with two separate amounts on it.
"What's this say?" I asked Yossi, pushing it over to him.
He reads it, frowns, then asks Bank Guy a question, listens to the answer, tells Bank Guy its not correct, gets disagreement from Bank Guy...then Yossi says, "STOP! Don't sign another thing."
Even I could follow this Hebrew.
"They have to sign it," Bank Guy tells Yossi.
"No, they don't. You need to fix this," Yossi responds.
"This is the way it is. They have to sign, or they have a problem." Bank Guy counters.
"THEY don't have any problem," Yossi fires back. "YOU have the problem, the attorney has the problem, the Buyer has the problem and his attorney has the problem -- but THEY don't have a problem. They don't have to be here doing this for anyone. They're doing this because they're honest and YOU need to fix this!" he adds, pointing to the shekel amounts.
"I don't have the permission. I'd have to call Tel Aviv and see if they'll give me permission. It's not usual." Bank Guy counters.
Yossi stands up, picks up his keys, and calmly tells him, "They'll give you permission. Believe this. Tel Aviv wants this mess fixed. They'll agree when you tell them that these people aren't signing anything until this is fixed."
Bank Guy shrugs. "I'll ask for permission. I'll call you tomorrow and let you know what Tel Aviv says."
"B'seder, I appreciate it. I'll expect a call tomorrow, then," Yossi tells him.
Yeah, we weren't signing it. In the last post, I explained that we took a little tiny mortgage. The bank, happy with our income and expense proofs and our credit rating, was delighted to extend to us an enormous line of credit. Very flattering, thank you very much, but we don't need all that....we're only taking this little bit, okay?
The contract which Bank Guy shoved in front of us showed two amounts, one of which was the entire line of credit. In part of the conversation with Yossi which I didn't completely follow, Bank Guy assured Yossi that we'd only be responsible for that which we actually borrowed, but Yossi very correctly pointed out that that's NOT what the contract actually said. Bank Guy said something about a schedule of payments being attached later reflecting the true amount borrowed, etc but Yossi wasn't buying it.
He told Bank Guy that the mortgage contract was to state the exact shekel amount to be repaid and nothing else.
"You don't want to try to straighten this out ten years from now when someone from Tel Aviv looks at your file and decides you signed an agreement to repay the LOC amount and not what you really borrowed," he told us when we left the bank. "The way the contract is written, it's not clear, it's....." he searched for a word.
"Ambiguous," I offered.
"What's this, am-bi-gwas?" Yossi asked.
"A big word for 'not clear'," the Husband interjected drily. "But you're right," he told Yossi. "I don't want to be trying to prove the facts of this ten years from now with fading memories and no paper trail and ambiguous, unclear papers."
"Bidyuch!" Yossi agreed fervently. "I told him to make new papers with the correct amount, and he told me he needs the permission from Tel Aviv. He tells me you have a problem with this mortgage, and I say to him, no problem! They have all the money in their bank account. YOU have the problem, you and the lawyers. Make this right and no one has a problem." He smiled. "He'll get the permission, never worry," he told us.
48 hours later we were back at Bank Leumi signing corrected documents that reflected exactly what Yossi told Bank Guy to put in -- the amount borrowed, not the LOC amount.
"Y'know," the Husband pointed out, "Yossi hasn't had a thing to eat all day. What do you say we take you out to lunch, Yossi?"
"Sure, what you want," he agreed easily. "But you don't have to if you have other things to do."
The Husband smiled. "I think a lunch is in order, my friend. At least a lunch. You caught that 'bank error' and potentially just saved us about $200,000."