Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (176, 177)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

176. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the total number of family homes surrendered and-or repossessed by the various lending agencies in each of the past three years to date; if such arrangements were entered into by agreement through the courts or an intermediary, including personal insolvency practitioners; the extent to which the families have become the responsibility of the local authorities or other agencies in respect of their housing needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24456/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

177. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which in the context of debt resolution and the need to enter into arrangement with borrowers, lending institutions are relying more on the last option of voluntary surrender or repossession rather than pursuit of various other options to enable the borrower retain the family home, particularly where the sustainability of the proposal is at least as viable as it was when the loan was first negotiated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24457/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 177 together.

The strong view of the Government is that, in respect of co-operating borrowers under the Central Bank's 'Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process', repossession of a person's primary home should only be considered as a last resort and that every effort should be made to agree a sustainable arrangement as an alternative to loss of ownership.

In that context, the Deputy will be aware that the Central Bank's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) places an onus on the banks, in respect of a co-operating borrower, to explore all the options for an alternative repayment arrangement offered by a lender to address a mortgage difficulty and that a lender may only commence proceedings for repossession where the lender has made every reasonable effort to agree an alternative arrangement with the borrower.

If a borrower is offered an alternative repayment arrangement, the lender must give the borrower a clear explanation of the proposed arrangement and how it works, including the reason why the lender considers it to be appropriate for the borrower. The lender must also provide the borrower with the advantages of the offer and explain any disadvantages.

If the lender is not offering the borrower any alternative repayment arrangement, the reasons for this must be given in writing. The lender must also inform the borrower that a copy of the most recent Standard Financial Statement (SFS) is available on request, and provide the borrower with details, in writing of:

- other options available

- the borrowers right to make an appeal

- the website of the Insolvency Service of Ireland

The same information must be given to the borrower if he/she does not accept the alternative repayment arrangement offered to by the lender.

Furthermore, the CCMA provides that if a borrower is not satisfied with the alternative repayment arrangement offered by the lender, or if the lender declines to offer an alternative repayment arrangement, the borrower will have the right to appeal that decision to the lender's internal Appeals Board.  If the borrower is not happy with the outcome of an appeal/complaint made to the lender, s/he can refer the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO). Further information on how to make a complaint to the FSO is available at www.financialombudsman.ie .

Regarding data on repossessions, Central Bank statistics indicate the following is the position since the start of 2011 in respect of primary dwelling properties:-

 -

2011

2012

2013

2014 (Q1 only)

Court Order

196

194

251

54

Voluntary or abandoned

412

410

515

227

Total

608

604

766

281

Central Bank statistics are not in a position to indicate the housing status of households following repossession or the number of houses that were surrendered arising from the new statutory insolvency processes, though it is noted that these only became operational towards the end of 2013.  The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (in respect of the housing authorities) and the Department of Justice and Equality (in respect of the Insolvency Service) will be the appropriate Departments for the provision of available data on these aspects.