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This Ontario mother who can’t drive has to make her late son’s car payments. Here’s why

After her son suddenly died, an Ontario mother is in disbelief that she is on the hook to make car payments on his behalf for the next seven years – even though she doesn’t drive.

“He always made us laugh, our son did,” Maria Melville, of Whitby, Ont., told CTV News Toronto of her late son. “I miss that smile.”

Her son, 43-year-old James Melville, was an elevator mechanic who needed a car for work to lug his tools around with him. When his car broke down, he asked his mother to help buy another one.

Maria co-signed a loan to help her son purchase a 2019 Buick Enclave for $24,000.

“He didn’t have the money, so I had to co-sign to help him establish himself and get the loan. I didn’t mind doing that,” said Melville.

Her son was having a slight issue with his arm, but his family said he otherwise seemed fine. On Jan. 28, just two weeks after acquiring the vehicle, he suddenly died.

“It was such a shock because I didn’t expect that from someone who was so healthy,” Melville said.

Melville, who is 75 years old, said she has never driven or obtained a driver’s licence, so a car is of no use to her.

Since her son died suddenly, Maria said she approached the dealership and National Bank, who she co-signed the loan with, to ask them to take the car back. She claims they both declined.

“I would like them to take the car back and just give me peace of mind. That is all that I’m asking is that they do. I’m quite sure they can deal with it, but obviously they don’t want to,” said Melville.

Jeff Donnelly, Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council’s chief consumer protection officer, told CTV News Toronto that a contract is legally binding as soon as it’s signed.

“In situations similar to the one you’ve described, where a co-signer has experienced a considerable loss, it’s important to understand that the decision to return the vehicle and terminate the contract ultimately lies within the discretion of the dealer and the bank,” Donnelly said.

“Individuals should understand the implications of co-signing for a vehicle purchase where they will be listed as a co-owners. We advise them to opt for being a guarantor rather than a co-owner on both the vehicle and finance agreement. This will ensure when remote situations such as this occur the consumer has better options available to them.”

CTV News contacted the dealership and National Bank on Melville’s behalf after she agreed to negotiate due to the contract she signed.

“We spoke with our client, and this file is now closed to her satisfaction,” a National Bank spokesperson said.

National Bank agreed to take the car back and forgive the $24,000 loan, which was a great relief for Melville since she can now be free of the vehicle and continue to mourn her son’s death.

“This has really eased my mind, and it’s such a relief to have this over with. This helped me an awful, awful lot,” said Melville.

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