Written answers

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Department of Finance

Financial Services

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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183. To ask the Minister for Finance the measures in place to protect customers from the actions of vulture funds, particularly homeowners whose mortgages are with such entities; his views on the need to ensure adequate access for such mortgage holders to greater protections through statutory agencies; if he proposes to implement additional measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13542/24]

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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184. To ask the Minister for Finance if he proposes to introduce additional measures to assist mortgage holders who are under financial pressures due to increased interest rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13543/24]

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 184 together.

There is a robust consumer protection framework in place in relation to mortgages and other credit agreements. This consumer protection framework provides the same protections for all consumers, regardless of the regulated entity with whom they are dealing such as a bank, a retail credit firm or a credit servicing firm. This framework seeks to ensure that all Central Bank regulated entities are transparent and fair in their dealings with borrowers and that borrowers are protected from the beginning to the end of their mortgage life cycle.

The consumer protection framework that is available to relevant borrowers includes these protections and rights under the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code 2012 and the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears 2013. In addition, it includes the right to take an unresolved complaint a consumer may have with a financial provider to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO).

It is the case that queries have recently been raised in relation to the scope of the FSPO's jurisdiction and my Department, in consultation with the FSPO, the Central Bank and the Attorney General’s Office, is currently examining these issues. When the advice on these queries is to hand, I will consider it to see if further legislation is required and possible to enable all mortgage holders to have access to the FSPO.

In relation to the introduction of additional measures to assist mortgage holders, as the Deputy is aware Budget 2024 provided for a temporary one-year mortgage interest tax relief scheme for homeowners with an outstanding mortgage balance on their principal private residence of between €80,000 and €500,000 on 31 December 2022. Qualifying homeowners will be eligible for mortgage interest tax relief in respect of the increased interest paid on that loan between the calendar year 2022 compared to the calendar year 2023 at the standard rate of income tax, capped at €1,250 per property.

Also, following my engagement last Autumn with regulated mortgage entities, the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) has implemented a number of further measures to assist their customers, including:

  • a second phase of a ‘Dealing With Debt’ campaign to highlight new and existing supports for concerned mortgage customers;
  • mortgage servicing firms and MABS to collaborate on an expansion of streamlined customer engagement framework; and
  • the provision of initial eligibility criteria by the main lenders to provide clear guidelines for home mortgage customers of credit servicing firms who are seeking to switch their mortgage.
This means that, for the first time there is now an agreed industry wide set of initial eligibility criteria to facilitate people switching their mortgage from a non-bank to a bank. All of the banks and some other lenders have signed on to that set of criteria. Credit servicing firms have also committed to working with these criteria to support customers switching and to ensure they are aware that they may have options to switch their mortgage.

In order to be eligible to switch under these guidelines, customers need to be making full capital and interest repayments on their mortgage. In addition, customers must have no arrears on their home mortgage or any other lending in the past two years. Once customers meet these and other initial criteria, applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis in line with individual lender credit policy. The decision on whether or not to provide credit in any particular case, or the amount of credit to provide, remains a commercial matter for an individual lender.

The Central Bank will also continue to engage with regulated firms to ensure that they have sufficient operational capacity to manage applications by borrowers to switch their mortgage or mortgage provider and that industry participants are extending themselves to support consumers and support switching.

Finally, any person who is experiencing difficulty in relation to their mortgage should seek the assistance of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). This is a State funded service for people whose home is in mortgage arrears or in mortgage difficulty and it can provide free legal and financial advice where necessary to borrowers.


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