Ruling casts doubt on home seizures

HUNDREDS of house repossessions may not go ahead following a landmark ruling that places a question mark over the entire repossession system since 2009.

A High Court ruling means repossession orders sought by lenders since December 2009 could be struck out. It also means that 10 cases in which orders for repossession have already been granted could now be overturned.

The New Beginning group, which has been offering legal support to homeowners facing repossession, has said it will check to see if any families have already left the properties in question.

The ruling was delivered in the High Court yesterday by Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne after four test cases were taken involving different lending institutions.

It came as AIB executive chairman David Hodgkinson said any mortgage debt forgiveness scheme implemented by the bank could involve it taking a share in the ownership of the houses of those in arrears.

The High Court case centred on whether the repeal of aspects of a 1964 act by a December 2009 act effectively meant repossession applications from the latter date were no longer covered by legislation.

In the ruling, one case was struck out and the lenders in another were told they could not proceed with an order for possession pursuant to section 62 (7) of the 1964 act.

Ms Justice Dunne said: “It appears that there is a lacuna created by the repeal of section 62 (7) in that, as I have found, those lenders who did not have an entitlement to apply for an order pursuant to section 62 (7) by December 1, 2009, are not in a position of avail of the provision of the 2009 act to apply for an order of possession, as their right to apply for such an order is not saved by the provisions of the 2005 act. It is not for the court to supply that which is not contained in the 2009 act.”

David Hall, spokesman for New Beginning, said the ruling meant the legalities surrounding repossessions were entering “unchartered waters”.

In addition to the 10 rulings already made that could now be subject to review, he said New Beginning had 100 cases on its books that were affected by yesterday’s ruling.

Sixteen of those were due in the High Court yesterday.

New Beginning is likely to decide on possible appeals by the end of the week and will look for the 10 orders already made to be overturned or made subject of an interim injunction.

“The issue is what the alternatives are,” Mr Hall said. “This is a route of repossession that has now been stopped and there are not many immediate equivalent alternatives.”

The ruling splits those facing repossessions into a number of categories: pre-December 2009; those where default and demands for repayment straddle December 2009; and those after December 2009.

Mr Hall said New Beginning would consider whether to appeal the ruling involving the first two categories, in which lenders can pursue repossession orders.

There were indications last night that lenders might appeal aspects of the ruling.


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