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Bank tells lesbian couple to live apart

Bank tells lesbian couple to live apart

Published: 22 Jul 2010 15:06 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Jul 2010 15:06 GMT+02:00

A Swedish lesbian couple who wanted a mortgage were told by a bank clerk that they should change their lifestyle and think about living apart.

Sara Evaldsson, 29, and Maria Engström, 31, were living nearly 100 kilometres away from each other and had decided to move in together in Maria’s home town of Västerås. They both had permanent jobs, good credit ratings and had secured a good price for a 2-bedroom apartment in Västerås they wanted to buy.

But when they visited Maria's bank in May last year to apply for a mortgage, they were given short shrift.

"The woman at the bank was very dismissive. We were going to buy the flat for a good price and we knew that it was a bargain. We had all sorts of papers with us, but she wasn't interested."

The bank clerk at Swedbank in Skiljebo, Västerås, said that the 490,000 kronor loan the couple wanted to borrow was "a lot of money" and insisted that a ten percent deposit would be necessary, Maria told The Local.

But when the couple questioned the bank’s decision, the clerk said:

“You should reconsider your personal situation and continue to live in different places.”

The comment shocked the pair:

“We were shocked. We wondered what on earth she meant. We also wondered whether a heterosexual couple would have been given the same advice.”

“We were also surprised that she said it was a lot of money, as we knew that it was a bargain.”

The couple have now reported the incident to Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman.

“We didn’t think that this was an acceptable way to behave,” Maria said.

The couple approached rival bank Nordea later the same day and were granted a mortgage:

“They said immediately that it was a good purchase and that one of us alone would almost have qualified for that mortgage,” Maria told The Local.

The couple have since renovated the apartment and had it valued at over 800,000 kronor.

Anna Sundblad, Swedbank’s head of press relations, told The Local that the bank was sorry for what had happened:

“We take these kinds of incidents very seriously. We have a clear policy that we never discriminate on the grounds of religion, gender or sexual orientation. We also aim to set a good example in questions like this - we sponsor the Stockholm Pride festival for instance.”

“What will happen now is that our customer ombudsman will investigate the matter together with the Discrimination Ombudsman.”

James Savage (james.savage@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:59 July 22, 2010 by grantike
this is not new for Swedbank ,they have issues all around.granting visa cards to non citizens its an issue,though is just visa card on your income only not bank cash.when they insist you need to have 150kr thousand in account .where clearly same person talking to you don't have that amount.its crazy sorry for people swedbank treat this way just know they have issues
16:23 July 22, 2010 by maakm
Well I have been listening these words every where" We have a clear policy that we never discriminate on the grounds of religion, gender or sexual orientation".

But in reality there is discrimination in every place.whether, its working place, shopping or traveling.you feel it everywhere. But I don't understand why ppl pretend that they are not.
16:51 July 22, 2010 by Atlas
Let's be Devil's Advocate for a sec...Top brass at Swedbank might be open minded but there is no way for to "enforce" open mind to all employees...it is bound to happen that somewhere in the corner desk someone will be racist, homophobic etc...You can't really tell...

Personally i feel sorry that that couple had to face sexual discrimination...and good for them that they took their business somewhere else...
17:03 July 22, 2010 by Nemesis
Swedbank strikes again.

I will say this much for Swedbank. They are consistant.

Maybe Swedbank should stop imposing its lifestyle onto innocent customers.
01:06 July 23, 2010 by caradoc
Hej Amerikat,

you are such an idiot. What the hell has discrimination against same sex couples got to do with rights for pedophiles. Perhaps you should spell your name Amerishit.
02:30 July 23, 2010 by Roaringwater
nice one, caradoc.

you're perfectly right.

(FYI - methinks Amerikat also goes by "leroy")
06:48 July 23, 2010 by Tutu
i stand to be corrected and i want to see thow this case ends. I dont think the staff discriminated. the staff told them to pay 10 percent which is the usual practice and they refused. the stafff advised them to continue living apart since they dont want to pay the money. i agree that the staff was rude but dicrimination, I DONT THINK SO
08:37 July 23, 2010 by Kevin Harris
Are the complainants asking for better credit terms for lesbians than the bank gives everyone else? I hope not, that would be discimination.

I agree with Tutu, the bank clerk might have handled it more sensitively, but I suspect these two people are on the make.
11:34 July 23, 2010 by LeoKinmann
I have only encountered two kinds of employees at Swedbank: young girls who look good but knows no squat about how the work is done, and old hags who'd rather adhere strictly to the rules than trying to help the customers. They totally stink!
12:29 July 23, 2010 by Da Goat
I agree the two lesbians were just being difficult like the bank hag they encountered, three women butting heads LOL they should have gone to a man clerk and played up a bit to get him on side BUT the female knowing what women are like, decided that two women getting a loan together is a big risk for her bank and made the correct decision for her bank (imagine the stink when lesbians divorce..very nasty I fear) then again on that note the bank always wins in any case!

this is both sad and funny I feel!

bet they got the loan from a male @ nordea??
23:40 July 27, 2010 by Nevermindwho
Well, I can testify that I most certainly WAS discriminated against when my wife and I tried to apply for a loan to buy our house--she is Caucasian, I am not.

For starters, we had booked an interview at the branch at S:t Eriksgatan in Stockholm, and were seated in a horrible corridor with our backs to a passageway--no sense of privacy or security whatsoever, but that's not the discriminatory part.

Now THIS is what was discrminatory: the banker woman, wouldn't so much as look me in the eye, talked only to my wife and ACTED LIKE I WAS INVISIBLE the whole time. She was quite cold, patronizing at best, and never asked any of the right questions. Even though our papers and references were immaculate, it was like she had already decided we weren't to qualify for a loan because of my skin color.

On the verge of making a complaint, we simply decided to bring our business elsewhere. I wasn't treated the same at the next bank, not even close, and I am now the happy co-owner of a beautiful house. Swedbank later got back to us (informing my wife and not me!) that we hadn't qualified, HAHA!

Why didn't we complain? Because there was nothing tangible, nothing she said which we could pin her on. But the discrimination I/we felt and experienced was unmistakable. While it's true that top management cannot force each and every employee to be non-dsicriminatory, bad attitudes as a rule flow from the top down. Such discrimination, if nothing else, is always due to poor management and the lack of attention, emphasis and education on such matters.
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