Thursday 19 January 2017

Mortgage arrears fall but thousands remain in a debt straitjacket

Published 13/12/2016 | 02:30

Half of the home mortgage accounts owned by vulture funds are in arrears. Stock photo: Graham Moore
Half of the home mortgage accounts owned by vulture funds are in arrears. Stock photo: Graham Moore

There has been a fall in the number of homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments.

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But the overall number in arrears remains high, reflecting the fact that thousands of families remain in a debt crisis.

Half of the home mortgage accounts owned by vulture funds are in arrears.

A total of 79,562 mortgages across all banks and vulture funds were in some form of arrears in the three months to September - a decline of 3.1pc compared with the previous quarter.

More than 34,500 residential mortgage accounts were longer than two years in arrears, according to the latest figures from the Central Bank. These people are seen as at high risk of losing their homes, as many have made no payments in the past number of years.

Average arrears owed by those more than two years behind on their payments have gone up by almost €10,000 in the last year to close to €64,000.

A fall of just 429 was recorded in the number of those who were more than two years behind in their repayments in September compared with the summer period. David Hall, of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, said the high numbers that were more than two years in arrears meant more people would end up homeless.

He claimed there was a failure by the Central Bank to force banks to be reasonable with borrowers.

"The failure of lenders to come up with solutions for these distressing cases and an abject failure of the State-sponsored insolvency system, which was set up to keep people in their homes but which has presided over a sequence of events that sees no action to deal with these difficult cases, means homelessness increasing," he said.

Radical

There were very few options for those in deep mortgage difficulty.

Mr Hall said there needed to be radical thinking to come up with innovate solutions quickly so those facing repossession and homelessness were given options to remain in suitable accommodation.

Unregulated entities, which included vulture funds, had the highest arrears levels. Half of the mortgages held by vulture funds were in arrears for more than three months.

Irish Independent

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