MABS gets new tools to aid homeowners

Struggling homeowners will shortly be able to turn for help and advice to one of 27 special Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) outlets and will also be able to consult with court “mentors” during hearings.

The Department of Social Protection is bolstering the ability of MABS to assist distressed mortgage holders through a number of measures.

The measures include a greater role in offering information, advice and assistance to mortgage holders through all stages of the mortgage arrears resolution process (MARP) and to borrowers who have already been through MARP.

The measures will also target dedicated mortgage arrears, focusing on cases which have been through MARP, and will help the mortgage holder to assess whether the option on offer from the lender is the “best and most sustainable option”.

They will also, where required, negotiate with the lender on behalf of the client.

In the coming weeks, 16 such MABS services should be in operation with a further 11 to be in place by year end, ensuring nationwide coverage.

The services will also have an in–house personal insolvency practitioner (PIP) role for those homeowners who are at imminent risk of losing their home and who cannot afford to pay for professional advice to deal with their debt.

A public PIP is already being piloted in Waterford MABS and bankruptcy advice in Cork MABS.

Meanwhile, a national network of “court mentors” is also being established. The mentors will attend court with clients and offer support and advice on the proceedings as well as direct referral back to MABS where a case is adjourned.

The court mentoring service has been trialled at six locations around the country and is to be expanded in the coming weeks.

The Department of Social Protection said an “extensive” communications and publicity campaign highlighting the new services is due to be launched from mid–September.

The proposed locations for the first 16 dedicated mortgage arrears MABS are: Dundrum, Dublin, Waterford, Cork (two locations), Clonmel, Thurles, Tralee, Limerick, Ennis, Galway, Castlebar, Roscommon, Cavan, Navan, Newbridge, Arklow, and Carlow.

Social protection junior minister Kevin Humphreys said that the enhancement of MABS’ role to provide a dedicated mortgage advice service will provide greater support for distressed mortgage holders in their dealings with their lenders.

Ross Maguire of New Beginning, the group specialising in mortgage resolution, said MABS was very well positioned to provide the service on a nationwide basis and he wished them every success in the new venture.

However, he warned that the service’s impact could be limited.

“In general terms, those who can afford to pay their mortgage or a restructured mortgage can also afford financial or insolvency advice,” said Mr Maguire.

“As the new service is aimed at those who cannot afford to pay for advice, it is very likely that Personal Insolvency or restructured loan arrangements will not be possible for them.

“As matters stand, therefore, and in the absence of some large-scale mortgage to rent or mortgage-to-lease programmes, the advice that people will be receiving from this free service is that there is no available solution.

“With the insolvency legislation and this new scheme the government has gone two thirds of the way towards a general solution — the last piece of the jigsaw remains outstanding.

“But this missing piece is what most effects those at risk of repossession.”


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