Guidelines to help struggling mortgage holders meet payments

THE Master of the High Court has issued guidelines for under-stress borrowers, as he revealed that 600 new cases for repossession of homes had come before him since early June.

Most of the cases involve outright default of loans over a year or more.

Edmund Honohan, who prepares cases for hearing, said he was conducting a survey on the 600 cases and would be publishing the results of that later this year.

A pattern was emerging of arrears averaging about 10% of the original loan, he said.

He said borrowers in difficulties should prepare for the new system being implemented under the code of conduct of mortgage arrears and he outlined some guidelines to assist them in doing so.

In court yesterday, the master noted, while there were 70 repossession cases in his list for the day, most such cases are being adjourned to allow borrowers to make payments as agreed with lenders.

While borrowers probably realise missing every payment over a period of a year will result in a court summons, what they don’t appreciate is that arrears do not have to be paid off prior to their resuming monthly repayments on loans.

Arrears could then be spread thinly over the period of the loan or added afterwards but such measures could be arranged only after negotiation with the lenders, he said.

The code of conduct on mortgage arrears, recently announced by the Government, was being strengthened to improve the borrower’s position, he noted.

The code was to be given clearer legal status with a new structure for case by case re-negotiation to replace the current “ad hoc procedure”.

Mortgage repayment terms will be rewritten and would be fair to both borrower and lender, he said.

The borrower would have the right to have their case referred to a dedicated unit within the lender’s organisation if they felt the proposed new monthly repayment is too high.

If still unhappy after that review, the borrower could appeal to the Banking Ombudsman.


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