91 homes repossessed this year

LENDERS had 456 repossessed homes on their books at the end of March but experts say the figures significantly lag behind those in Britain and the US.

Some 91 homes were taken from borrowers in the first three months of the year and 32 were disposed of by mortgage lenders.

The Central Bank said 65 houses were voluntarily surrendered or abandoned in the first three months of this year.

Experts said that if Irish lenders were as active in taking legal action on homeowners as the US mortgage lenders, there would have been 1,556 properties repossessed in the first quarter of the year, and a total of 5,558 in 2009.

The number of mortgage repossessing in Britain during 2009 was estimated to be 48,000 by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, representing 0.48% of all mortgages outstanding.

If the same rate was applied here, it would have resulted in more than 3,800 repossessions in 2009, over 10 times the actual rate.

The Irish Banking Federation (IBF) said the figures showed banks that agree to postpone loan repayments are “greatly assisting” distressed homeowners.

IBF chief executive, Pat Farrell, said: “It is very reassuring to note that forbearance is working for a great many homeowners.

“IBF mainstream lenders remain committed to doing everything possible to help people with genuine repayment problems to manage their debts and to stay in their homes; and the increasing level of arrears linked to the general economic situation confirms the desirability and indeed the necessity of this approach.”

Just over 32,000 out of 791,000 mortgage holders or 4% of all home loans are in arrears for more than 90 days, a rise of 13%, up 23% over the numbers as at September 30, 2009.

It said 21,817 mortgages are six months overdue.

Some industry commentators believe that about 80% of current arrears have arisen as a result of reduced incomes and financial difficulties due to overextended debt such as multiple credit cards and other short term loans. Only 20% is estimated to be solely attributable to unemployment.

The Professional Insurance Brokers Association (PIBA) said the mortgage arrears and debt group set up by the Finance Minister needs to look at easing the burden for genuine people by implementing measures that would restrict banks from repossessing houses in genuine circumstances.

Rachel Doyle, director of PIBA Mortgage Services, said that the rule that there is a 12-month moratorium before court proceedings for repossession can commence, would not be sufficient as it does not take account of the fact that employment pick-up tends to lag behind general economic recovery.

“We believe that the Mortgage Arrears Code will need to be reviewed to prevent those who have lost their jobs and are genuinely making their best efforts to repay their loans from falling into the cataclysmic situation of losing their homes.”

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