Written answers

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Photo of Réada CroninRéada Cronin (Kildare North, Sinn Fein)
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41. To ask the Minister for Finance if his Department will request banks not to impede access to mortgages for those workers that would ordinarily be approved for the pandemic unemployment payment given the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15118/22]

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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Since the COVID-19 situation first arose, I have maintained contact with the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) and banks on the measures the sector has put in place to assist their customers who are economically impacted by the pandemic. In relation to the particular issue of new mortgage lending, the main retail banks previously confirmed that they are considering mortgage applications and mortgage drawdowns in relation to their customers who were on employment supports on a case by case basis and that they are taking a fair and balanced approach.

In addition, the Central Bank has indicated that it expects all regulated firms to take a consumer-focused approach and to act in their customers’ best interests at all times. If a mortgage applicant has any queries or concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on their mortgage application they should in the first instance contact their lender directly.

Nevertheless, there are also general consumer protection requirements which govern the provision of mortgage credit to consumers. For example, the European Union (Consumer Mortgage Credit Agreements) Regulations 2016 (CMCAR) provide that, before concluding a mortgage credit agreement, a Central Bank regulated mortgage lender must make a thorough assessment of the consumer’s creditworthiness with a view to verifying the prospect of the consumer being able to meet his or her obligations under the credit agreement.

The CMCAR further provides that a lender should only make credit available to a consumer where the result of the creditworthiness assessment indicates that the consumer’s obligations resulting from the credit agreement are likely to be met in the manner required under that agreement. The assessment of creditworthiness must be carried out on the basis of information on the consumer’s income and expenses and other financial and economic circumstances which are necessary, sufficient and proportionate.

In addition, the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code 2012 imposes ‘Knowing the Consumer and Suitability’ requirements on regulated lenders. Under these requirements, lenders are required to assess affordability of credit and the suitability of a product or service based on the individual circumstances of each borrower. The Code specifies that the affordability assessment must include consideration of the information gathered on the borrower’s personal circumstances and financial situation. Furthermore, where a lender refuses a mortgage application, the CMCAR requires that the lender must inform the consumer without delay of the refusal. In addition, the Code states that the lender must clearly outline to the consumer the reasons why the credit was not approved and provide these reasons on paper if requested.

Within this regulatory framework, the decision to grant or refuse an application for mortgage credit remains a commercial matter for the individual lender and it is not possible for me to give instructions to lenders on such matters. However, if a mortgage applicant is not satisfied with the way a regulated firm is dealing with them in relation to an application for a mortgage or the drawn down of a mortgage, or they believe that the regulated firm is not following the requirements of the Central Bank’s codes and regulations or other financial services law, they should make a complaint directly to the regulated firm. If the mortgage applicant is still not satisfied with the response from the regulated firm, they can refer the complaint to the statutory Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.


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