I appreciate the stress and uncertainty that many borrowers are facing at this difficult time, and those borrowers who are experiencing difficulty in meeting their repayments will continue to need assistance and support from their lenders. In this regard it is the clear expectation of both the Central Bank and I that lenders engage effectively and sympathetically with distressed borrowers – in line with the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, the Consumer Protection Code and regulations for lenders lending to SMEs – to deliver appropriate and sustainable solutions and facilitate as many borrowers as possible to return to repaying their debt.
The Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) stated last month that its members are continuing to commit significant resources to support customers impacted by COVID-19, and in particular those who are affected by the latest restrictions. Through ongoing engagement with the BPFI and lenders, the Central Bank is working to ensure that borrowers affected by COVID-19 continue to be supported through this period of unprecedented stress.
Borrowers have a suite of regulatory protections, and lenders have specific obligations to support and work with borrowers who are continuing to experience loan difficulty because of COVID-19. It is in the best long term interests of both the borrower and lender that engagement takes place in relation to a particular loan difficulty and that the most appropriate solution to the individual case is adopted as soon as possible. The options could include additional flexibility, and this could be a short term arrangement such as additional periods without payments or interest-only repayments, or if appropriate more long term arrangements.
The Central Bank has indicated to lenders that they should ensure that they have sufficient expert resources to assess individual borrower circumstances, and to offer appropriate and sustainable solutions to affected borrowers in a timely manner in line with regulatory requirements and Central Bank expectations. The Central Bank has also confirmed that there is no regulatory impediment to lenders offering payment breaks to borrowers at this time, providing they are appropriate for the individual borrower circumstance. With regard to primary dwelling mortgages, the Deputy may wish to note that it is open to lenders to put temporary arrangements in place to assist a borrower who are experiencing repayment difficulties pending the more detailed consideration and assessment of an individual mortgage case under the CCMA Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process.
I will continue to work with the Central Bank, as regulator, to ensure that the Central Bank consumer protection and other applicable frameworks will be fully available to all borrowers that will still need support.