€15m scheme will help people in mortgage arrears

Plans for free financial and legal advice to help struggling borrowers stay in their homes will be brought to Cabinet this week as a part of a €15m package to help people in mortgage arrears.

Borrowers in serious difficulties will be able to access free advice a well as help from a solicitor, personal insolvency practitioner or an accountant under a voucher system.

A helpline, an information campaign, and specialist judges to hear mortgage cases are also planned.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald will bring the measures to cabinet tomorrow and the project is being coordinated with the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs).

However, the Government has refused to act on calls to issue a moratorium on repossessions, saying that this might dry up mortgage lending.

Up to 2,000 homes were in possessions of banks earlier this year, but ministers claim that the rate of repossessions is in fact slowing.

Up to €15m will be made available over three years which will fund the service to provide independent expert advice for borrowers.

Ms Fitzgerald’s officials say the advice, including on finding solutions to return to solvency, will prioritise helping people to stay in their homes, where that is possible.

The package includes an information campaign so struggling borrowers in arrears know the advice and supports available.

There will also be changes to court rules to allow repossession cases be heard by specialist judges.

Use of specialist judges is separate from a government promise to set up a dedicated court for mortgage arrears, which officials yesterday pledged is still on track.

The Tánaiste is expected to indicate that the new services will be rolled out this year.

Mabs, which already helps borrowers with difficulties, has lined up dedicated mortgage advisers as well as the new national helpline.

Help from a mortgage adviser is free, while help from an insolvency expert or accountant will be provided free of charge under the voucher system issued by MABS.


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