1,000 repossession cases listed in courts this week
Lawyers from the New Beginning agency will turn up at every court where home repossession cases are being heard from tomorrow.
Repossessions are expected to surge after the latest Central Bank figures revealed that the main banks were now threatening 31,000 homeowners with the loss of their properties.
New Beginning say their representatives will attend courts, offer advice to borrowers and arrange for a full financial and legal assessment.
Tomorrow, home repossession hearings will take place in Cork, Donegal, Laois, Wicklow, Kildare, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford - the first of 1,000 repossession cases which will come before the courts this week.
The service is not free and people who wish to use it will have to pay €150 - though New Beginning say they will waive the fee in certain circumstances.
New Beginning says that most people coming before the courts facing repossession are employed.
"It is just a question of too little income facing too much debt," said founder Ross Maguire SC.
The agency has written to all of the county registrars in the country to inform them of its plans. It has also written to the President of the Circuit Court, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke.
More than 120,000 people are directly affected by repossessions and face eviction from their homes.
"This is a population greater than Cork city. Over the coming months these cases are coming before the courts and New Beginning intends to be there to assist borrowers. This week alone over 1,000 cases of banks seeking possession of family homes will be listed before the courts," Mr Maguire said.
New figures show the threats to take homes off people make up 40pc of the "solutions" the banks are proposing as part of targets set for them by the Central Bank for dealing with the arrears crisis.
More than 17,000 of these mortgage holders are already at a more advanced stage of the repossession process.
Some of these people have already given up their homes voluntarily, the Central Bank said.
The figures, which set out how the banks have dealt with targets set for them by regulators, show just 46,000 of those in arrears on a residential home loan have had their mortgages restructured.
New Beginning believes that most of cases coming before the courts can be resolved without the loss of the family home, provided there are systems in place to deal with borrowers "whose finances are so impaired as to make them unable to repay even a restructured mortgage".
"This involves industrial-style solutions which will involve ownership in properties passing to large group-housing owners who can then lease them to the individual borrowers or to local authorities who can lease them on to those same people," Mr Maguire said
He suggested that this will require new thinking, but inevitably these solutions will need to be forced onto the system.
"At the moment, it is in a state of paralysis. We can force this through by developing strength in numbers. We believe that where we put forward sustainable solutions, the courts should not order evictions. We will ask them - 'Are you going to put a family out on the road when there is a better way?'"
Last week it was reported that the Government is considering new measures to deal with the mortgage-arrears crisis, including proposals for a new scheme that would allow people in significant arrears to stay in their homes.
The package of measures may also involve legislation to weaken the veto banks enjoy in personal insolvency deals, though court actions will continue against borrowers who refuse to discuss arrears with their lenders.
The Irish Times reported that the Government is also considering a separate scheme that would allow borrowers to retain ownership of their properties, but offer them ongoing State support to help them pay their mortgages.