Calls for mortgage arrears office

The Government faces pressure to set up an independent mortgage arrears office to help struggling homeowners resolve loans as well as calls for enhanced rights for debt-ridden borrowers.

Proposals will also be put before the Coalition this week for the Central Bank to independently assess how exactly banks are resolving thousands of troubled home loans.

Fianna Fáil will launch the private members legislation in the Dáil and call on TDs from all parties to support their proposals to tackle the mortgage arrears crisis.

The bill will be tabled by party finance spokesman Michael McGrath, following figures in June which show 142,892 family home mortgages in arrears.

The Cork South Central TD said that the proposals were not adversarial and should be agreeable to government TDs. He said the proposals were a response to the appearance of banking executives at the Oireachtas finance committee, two weeks ago.

The plans, which will come before the Dáil tomorrow night and Thursday, include proposals for the establishment of an independent mortgage arrears resolution office to oversee the implementation of sustainable mortgage solutions. The party also want the Central Bank to carry out an independent investigation, including an assessment of a sample of individual cases, into claims by the banks that a significant portion of those in arrears are “strategic defaulters”.

Further plans include legislation, if needed, to establish the right of a borrower who meets the definition of a “sustainable mortgage” to a long-term sustainable solution, including, for example, a split mortgage of at least 10 years duration or a debt for future equity swap.

The Central Bank should also be called upon to report on the performance of the banks to date on reaching loan resolution targets laid down, according to the private members bill.

Fianna Fáil also want the Coalition to recognise the mortgage arrears crisis represents the “greatest social challenge facing the State”.

The party points out that 57,163 family home mortgage accounts are in arrears for more than one year.

Party leader Micheál Martin yesterday said that consumers and the domestic economy were crying out for relief.

He added: “Again, [we’re] asking and pleading with the Government to protect people with mortgage arrears and to ensure that there’s a sustainable solution.”

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