Most homes ‘seized by familiar banks’, not vulture funds

The majority of home repossessions in Ireland are pursued by 'household name banks', not vulture funds.
Most homes ‘seized by familiar banks’, not vulture funds

The majority of home repossessions in Ireland are pursued by 'household name banks', not vulture funds.

A research report analysed the mortgage repossession cases listed before the courts and identified that household banks account for two-thirds of cases, with Permanent TSB alone accounting for one-fifth of all cases listed.

The study, A Lost Decade - Study on Mortgage Possession Court Lists in Ireland, was prepared by Dr Padraic Kenna, director of the centre for housing law, rights and policy at NUI Galway.

It focuses on some 12,650 mortgage possession cases listed between Apr and Dec 2019, and found that AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC and Ulster Bank account for 46% of these cases, while Permanent TSB was responsible for one-fifth of all cases listed.

The breakdown of cases was as follows:

  • AIB (including subsidiaries EBS and Haven): 1,495 cases, 28%;
  • Bank of Ireland: 581 cases, 11%;
  • KBC: 272 cases, 5%;
  • Permanent TSB: 2,366 cases, 19%;
  • Ulster Bank: 456 cases, 9%.

Non-Irish bank entities were involved in 4,347 cases, some 34% of those listed, with Promontoria, Mars Capital, Pepper and Shoreline among the most active.

Dr McKenna describes Permanent TSB's level of action as "surprising".

It is 75% owned by the Minister for Finance and is supervised by the Central Bank of Ireland.

"With all the social and economic costs of these home loan possession cases, as well as the State costs in addressing the consequences of evictions, there are questions as to the effectiveness of the supervision of this institution," Dr McKenna said.

In addition, 71% of shares in AIB and 14% of shares in Bank of Ireland are owned by the Minister for Finance, raising further questions about the use of resources to pursue possession proceedings over any of the alternative solutions available.

Before the outbreak of Covid-19, there were already 27,000 mortgage accounts in arrears for more than two years in Ireland.

Some 85,000 mortgages have been restructured due to payment difficulties and many people in long-term arrears fear loss of home.

Dr Kenna warned that Covid-19 could result in a new round of mortgage arrears and that many of the challenges of the last decade could re-emerge: “It is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past and I would recommend that those facing mortgage payment problems post Covid-19 should be able to avail of the State mediation, personal insolvency and new legislation in 2019 which obliges courts to carry out proportionality assessments."

His research found that women have been particularly vulnerable in these cases, and that only one-quarter of borrowers at risk of losing their homes had any listed legal representation.

Some 7% represented themselves. In contrast, financial institutions were almost always legally represented.

The report confirms that the numbers of possession orders being granted is reducing year on year since 2015.

Continuing the pattern over the years, for every two orders granted, three are not granted by the courts, for a variety of reasons.

According to the Central Bank of Ireland, of the homes repossessed by financial entities between 2009 and 2016, some 66% were repossessed after voluntary 'surrender' or abandonment.

The highest proportion of cases were located in the South East (19%) and Midland (18%) Circuits.

There were also 1,058 in Cork, and 1,445 in Dublin.

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