The Government has been urged to take “radical” steps to stem the flow of house repossessions, as thousands of families face up to the threat of losing their homes.
Data from the Courts Service showed, that since the start of this year, 7,101 civil bills for repossession have been lodged by banks.
The figure prompted claims by the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation that as many as 25,000 homes could be repossessed this year alone, although New Beginning suggested it could take two years for that number of properties to be dealt with in the courts.
It comes after months of warnings that the number of repossession cases coming before the courts is rising dramatically, with the likelihood that many families forced to leave their homes will have to join the already overcrowded waiting lists for social housing.
The Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) said the Government now needed to tackle the issue on three fronts as the number of cases of mortgage arrears around the country remains consistently high.
Flac said the Government needed to ensure adequate financial and legal advice was given in a timely way to people negotiating restructure of their mortgage debt, as well as providing an independent service to objectively assess whether a sustainable mortgage restructure is possible. Flac also called for “radical reform of the mortgage to rent scheme”.
Flac’s director, Noeline Blackwell, said there was “a crying need for effective support for these people as they negotiate with lenders” — one ideally funded by the lenders.
Flac’s senior policy analyst, Paul Joyce, said there was now scope for mortgage arrears to be tackled head- on, even though the number of repossession applications had been rising “inexorably” and some cases had become “entrenched”.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan, speaking in Brussels, said he believed the figures indicated banks were using the courts “to get people to engage with them who have not engaged”, adding that there was “a whole menu of solutions” available to those in mortgage arrears.
Labour TD Willie Penrose will table a bill tomorrow proposing changes to bankruptcy laws and on a mortgage-to-rent scheme.
Mr Penrose said Labour, including senior ministers, were “full square behind [the proposals]” and that he was optimistic the changes would be made law.
He rejected suggestions the current system needed tweaking, adding: “It needs more than tweaking.”
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