Written answers

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Department of Justice and Equality

House Repossessions

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if, arising from the recent statement issued by the Revenue Commissioners, it is expected that home repossessions referred to are likely to be in respect of the family home; if it is intended to ensure that every effort is made to protect the family home and encourage the lending agencies in this direction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57652/12]

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I must inform the Deputy that I am unaware of any statements issued by the Revenue Commissioners on this particular subject.

The Deputy should be aware that all mortgage contracts contain remedies, such as repossession, that may be exercised by lending institutions in cases of mortgage default. My Department is consulting with the Office of the Attorney General with a view to framing an appropriate legislative response to recent High Court judgments which have created uncertainty in this area of the law. I want to stress that this issue is not about facilitating wide-scale repossessions by banks and other lending institutions. It is, if it becomes necessary, about correcting an unintended consequence of reforming legislation enacted in 2009.

I should add that under section 99 of the Personal Insolvency Bill as passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on 19 December 2012, a Personal Insolvency Arrangement proposal shall in so far as is reasonably practicable, be formulated in such a way that will not require the debtor to dispose of an interest in or cease to occupy his or her principal private residence. However, this significant protection is necessarily tempered to take into account that the debtor may not wish to continue to occupy the house or where the costs of the debtor continuing to reside therein are disproportionately large.

The Government is aware of the real and significant difficulties some mortgage holders are facing and is committed to advancing appropriate measures to assist those mortgage holders who are experiencing real and genuine difficulty.  Apart from insolvency reform, which is a key to addressing the problem, the Government is also implementing the other measures as recommended in the 2011 ‘Keane Report’ (Inter-Departmental Working Group on Mortgage Arrears).  These include the implementation of mortgage arrears resolution strategies by lenders as overseen by the Central Bank, the launch of the "mortgage to rent" initiative on a nationwide basis and the provision of an independent mortgage advice framework including an enhanced website .  In addition, the Central Bank’s Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears remains a key protection and provides that each mortgage lender regulated by the Central Bank must put in place a formal Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process to deal with its mortgage customers who are in arrears (or pre-arrears) and in particular it also provides that such lenders must adopt at least a twelve month moratorium in respect of co-operating mortgage holders before applying to the Courts to commence legal action for repossession of a borrower’s primary residence.  This protection remains in place.


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