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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 9 Dec 2015

Vol. 900 No. 1

Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2015: First Stage

I move:

That a Bill entitled an Act to provide that irrespective of the language of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013 that certain statutory provisions apply to mortgages of a particular class notwithstanding the repeal and amendment of those statutory provisions by the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, to provide for the adjournment of legal proceedings in certain cases; that section 1 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013 be amended in so far as it can be interpreted, that it retroactively deprives a right or entitlement of any person to a plenary process for the determination of whether they stand to be evicted from their principal private residence, and by implication substitute a summary process for eviction; and to provide for related matters.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me permission to move my Private Members' Bill, the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2015. The Bill represents my effort to address the situation regarding home repossessions and the trauma, intimidation and bullying experienced by families, home owners and sometimes people who buy to rent. It has been going on now for six or seven years since the onset of the financial crash. The people of this country have paid a huge price and suffered greatly due to the actions taken, including by me, when we voted to save the banks on that fatal night in September long ago. The people have suffered, put their shoulders to the wheel and been made to pay. It is now time the House and the Department of Finance put some restrictions, as the ECB failed to do, on banks and financial institutions and to make them understand the trauma they are visiting on people in their homes. Families are being put under financial pressure leading to stress, ill health and marital distress and separation. There is a litany of effects the pressure has on people who, in good faith, borrowed to put roofs over their heads. They went out, took the risk, obtained planning in many cases, bought houses, paid their planning fees, paid builders, paid solicitors, paid accountants and paid planning consultants. They owned their own homes and were doing fine paying for them as they intended to pay their mortgages when they were signed until the financial crisis hit and many were made unemployed through no fault of their own. Some self-employed people lost their businesses and could not get any social welfare or other supports. They faced awful trauma.

The banks were perplexed for a while and moved slowly enough initially, but repossessions started to happen quickly after that. Then Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, who I salute, found the loophole as it was her duty as a judge to do, and stopped the banks and financial institutions completely in their tracks with one judgment. It was very good because the courts are meant to be fair and free and to protect citizens under the law as well as everybody else. However, the Government, for reasons I do not understand, introduced the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013 for which all of the Government Deputies voted. In spite of the nice words in which it was couched and despite being dressed up as a support for families, behind its docile name the Act was really what ought to have been called an eviction Bill. Anyone facing the hammer, repossession and eviction, considers that a more appropriate name. In seeking to plug a loophole, the Act put us back to where we were before Ms Justice Dunne's judgment in 2012. The banks could circumvent that loophole and went on their merry way again to threaten, pressurise and intimidate householders.

It is going on apace. The courts in Clonmel and Nenagh in my county are full and 60 and 70 repossession orders are being made every week. The courts in every county are full of repossession applications. A great deal of trauma is being imposed. Beneath it all is the murky business of receivers and banks selling on repossessed properties for minimal figures only for handsome profits to be made by third parties mere weeks and months later. It is a murky business. I call on the Government not to oppose the Bill and to deal with it at the 99th hour of its five-year tenure. On foot of the mandate it received five years ago, I ask the Government to give some sustenance to home owners and frightened people and to provide them with legal support to fight their cases. Many of them cannot afford that at the moment. I salute the groups out there supporting families, including the Land League. I thank barrister David Langwallner for assisting me in putting this Bill together. It is badly needed. I appeal to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, as a member of the Labour Party which was founded in my own town of Clonmel 100 years ago-----

-----to be compassionate and to redress this situation. I ask that the Land and Conveyancing Act be repealed and that my Private Member's Bill be accepted.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.