Insolvency experts are warning that mortgage arrears are still leading some homeowners to thoughts of suicide as the level of insurmountable household debt remains stubbornly high.
The Association of Personal Insolvency Practitioners (APIP) also says the ongoing problem of mortgage arrears is going to exacerbate the homelessness crisis as lenders lose patience and push for repossession.
Eugene McDarby, APIP chairman, said the crisis is clear to the 80-plus PIPs operating across the country.
“In the past week alone, I have met three clients who have admitted to giving consideration to taking their own lives,” he said.
“To wake up every morning knowing that you are in danger of losing your home would take its toll on the most mentally tough person.
Long-term arrears account for almost half of mortgage arrears in Ireland, meaning there are thousands nationwide behind on their payments for two years or more. This leaves Ireland continually teetering on the brink of an even worse homelessness crisis than we already have on our hands.
Most recent Central Bank figures show that almost one in every 11 residential mortgages — representing 66,479 households — was in arrears at the end of June this year.
While that figure is falling gradually, the problem of long-term arrears persists with 26,237 of those households in arrears for more than two years.
The longer the arrears continue, the bigger they grow and the less likely they are of ever being cleared, leaving repossession likely if the situation is not addressed head-on. A total of 566 homes were repossessed in the year to June.
“That’s the unfortunate reality of Ireland in 2018, a reality which increased national economic prosperity can’t and shouldn’t brush under the carpet,” said Mr McDarby.
Under the State’s various insolvency schemes, householders with unmanageable mortgage arrears and other debts can seek protection from their creditors, work towards manageable repayments and have some debts written off, with the aim of enabling them to stay in their home.
Latest figures from the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) show that since the schemes were established in 2014, arrangements to settle debts and/or allow people remain in their home had been reached in 4,672 cases.
However, Mr McDarby said the schemes could be helping more.
In some cases, people are suffering needlessly because they are scared to engage with the banks, preferring to bury their heads in the sand and hope their problems go away, which they inevitably don’t,” he said.
“Our advice is the same as it has always been — engage with the banks as soon as possible. You have nothing to fear and you can access the services of a personal insolvency practitioner for free through the Abhaile scheme. Once you engage, productive discussions can take place.”