Last year the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) announced a coordinated approach by their member banks and other lenders to help their customers who were economically impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. The measures included flexible loan repayment arrangements where needed, including loan payment breaks initially for a period up to three months and then subsequently extended for up to six months. The implementation of this voluntary moratorium by the banking industry was a flexible response to the emerging COVID-19 crisis and ensured that a large volume of affected customers could benefit quickly during a fast moving and evolving public health crisis.
While many borrowers whose payment break has ended have been able to return to full payments, it is also recognised that many borrowers continue to be impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19. For those borrowers, lenders are expected to engage with them in an effective way and, in line with the requirements of the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, the Consumer Protection Code and regulations on lending to SMEs, to deliver appropriate and sustainable solutions and facilitate as many borrowers with their debt repayments.
In relation to the reintroduction of mortgage payment breaks, the Central Bank has confirmed that there is no regulatory impediment to lenders offering payment breaks to borrowers, providing they are appropriate for the individual borrower circumstance. My Department maintains ongoing contact with the BPFI and lenders and the BPFI also stated last January that standard payment breaks continue to be part of the wide range of tailored solutions which are being made available to customers upon assessment of their particular situation.
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 still need support at this time.