6,000 more households fall into arrears

A further 6,000 households found themselves struggling to pay their mortgages between July and September as the number in arrears over three months jumped to 86,000.

Figures released by the Central Bank show the rate of primary homes falling 90 days behind has slowed, with the number of households falling behind increasing by 0.7% to 86,146.

The banks have put payment plans in place, with a range of measures from interest-only, to splitting the mortgages into separate tranches to be paid off during different periods for more than 81,000 home owners. Despite these efforts, nearly 39,000 of restructured mortgages remain in arrears, down more than 3,500 on the previous three months.

Nearly 20,000 households are more than two years behind in their mortgage repayments, while a further 25,000 are more than a year behind in their repayment plans.

David Hall from the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO) said: “The facts show there are 65,000 homes in arrears of 180 to 720 days. This is a startling statistic.”

The director general of the Free Legal Advice Centre, Noeline Blackwell, described the depth of the problem as frightening.

“The arrears crisis continues to be serious but is not unexpected. No durable, long-term solutions have been put in place. Lenders continue to adopt a sticking-plaster approach to the problem. The news in these figures is the frightening depth of the arrears.”

For the first time the Central Bank has included figures on the level of arrears in the investment property market. The buy-to-let market, that many investors saw as their retirement income, is 17.9% in arrears. The figures show the arrears are rising at a faster rate than the primary residences arrears. Since June to July the number of investment property owners missing mortgage payments has increase from 24,879 to 26,770.

In total the bank has had possession of 378 buy-to-let properties. During the three months to September, 74 properties were taken into possession by the banks. Only 28 of these were repossessed through the courts, with the remaining being voluntarily surrendered or abandoned.

The banks had repossessed 44 homes through the courts and a further 102 homes were abandoned by indebted mortgage holders.

Despite calls for higher levels of repossession in Ireland, the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) said it would continue to only use the approach as a very last result.

“The level of repossession here remains very low by international standards; currently standing at 20 per 100,000 mortgages compared to 72 per 100,000 in the Britain [according to official figures],” said a spokesperson.

“Banks remain focused on maximising the number of sustainable mortgages. Repossession remains a matter of last resort — for peoples’ homes in particular.”

However, Mr Hall from the IMHO said the Government had completely failed to tackle the mortgage crisis and had condemned an entire generation “to an endless battle of attrition with the banks”, he said.

“It must be internationally unprecedented for a Taoiseach, Tánaiste, the governor of the Central Bank, and head of banking regulation all to state their dissatisfaction with how banks are dealing with mortgage holders, while at the same time not acting to deliver real policy solutions and changes. This government is now fully paralysed by the crisis.”

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