Education, childcare, and the social needs of families would be taken into account by judges in repossession cases under a new bill.
The bill, entered in the Dáil by the Independent Alliance, aims to keep families in their homes and permits judges to consider a range of additional circumstances in repossession cases.
The Independent Alliance said the Keeping People in Their Homes Bill 2017 provides greater protection to home owners facing repossession and also gives “clarity” to judges by “humanising” repossession cases.
Courts would be given a statutory basis to take a number of factors into account, including the availability of suitable and affordable alternative accommodation for a family facing eviction.
Judges would be allowed consider how the repossession would impact any older people, or on people with disabilities or dependents living in the house.
Likewise, access to school and whether moving a family out of their home will impact on the care and support arrangements for children and other dependents could be considered.
Independent Alliance TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, who has worked on the bill for the past seven months, said: “This bill can immediately help bring clarity and full and fair legal process to a devastating situation being faced by families every day. It also provides a common sense and legal-based solution.”
Mr Moran said the courts would be allowed take into consideration the impact that granting, adorning, postponing or executing an order for possession of a home would have on people. He said the Independent Alliance were now committed to following through with details of the Programme for Government around repossessions and vulture funds.
Dr Padraic Kenna, director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, who attended yesterday’s launch of the bill, said it would provide Irish courts with a clear Irish statutory basis to conduct a “proportionality assessment” in relation to possession orders: “The test of proportionality means that the courts must look at several options, it means that when there is a choice between several measures to achieve legitimate objectives, the court will adopt the least onerous one, the least damaging option for the household.”
Mr Moran is hoping to get cross-party support for the bill: “A lot of bills have come through the Dáil in recent months and I think this is one that has weight in it, this one could mean something.”
Fellow Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross said the proposals are about “re-balancing the situation in favour of the borrower”.
Separately Housing Minister Simon Coveney has announced €32m in funding for the national roll-out of the repair and leasing scheme for vacant houses. Mr Coveney now hopes around 800 unoccupied houses can be be done up to allow families on local authority waiting lists move in. The scheme provides upfront funds to pay for repairs.
He said: “The pilot has been working well in Waterford and Carlow local authorities since October with around 59 properties currently in train.”
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