State to target repossession of buy-to-lets
THE Government has told the troika it is considering fast-tracking the repossession of buy-to-let properties.
The threat is one of a number of new measures outlined in the latest targets agreed between the Government and the bailout partners, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It can take years for a repossession case to go through the courts.
Now the Government plans to decide by the end of next month if it needs to introduce "tight deadlines on plenary repossession proceedings for non-principal private residences".
There is also a commitment to deal with "non co-operative borrowers".
This is understood to be a reference to so-called strategic defaulters – homeowners or property investors who are not repaying mortgages and using the money for other purposes.
The Government promised that the repossession procedures would be timely and predictable.
An expert group has been put together to look at how long repossession cases take here compared with other countries, and will report by the end of the year.
The Government also said it would decide by the end of October whether to give new functions to the specialist judges appointed to deal with personal insolvency cases.
Meanwhile, the IMF said that tackling the bad debts held by the banks was key to kick-starting domestic spending, job creation and reviving bank lending. The IMF also warned the Government not to ease up on austerity.
The fund's acting chair David Lipton said: "Bringing the Insolvency Service into operation, removing unintended legal barriers to repossession and facilitating banks' engagement with borrowers have been important steps to enable the resolution of mortgages in arrears.
"The authorities must be vigilant to ensure this framework functions effectively to accelerate progress on that front. Close supervisory oversight of banks' efforts is also needed to reach sustainable resolution targets."
The IMF said more social welfare staff should be redeployed to help the long-term unemployed get back into the jobs market.
But Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin ruled out hiring more staff, saying workers from across the public sector could be transferred into unemployment services.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton was again under pressure from the troika to make sure the jobless were getting enough training to get them back into employment.
But Ms Burton recently said she had no more money for hiring new people.
Mr Howlin said his Labour colleague would have to make do with the staff she has.
However, Mr Howlin's spokesman later said he is not ruling out moving staff from across the public service.
"The Department of Social Welfare now has 6,500 staff," Mr Howlin said yesterday.
"Out of a cohort of 6,500, they'll be able to find resources to deploy to whatever priorities the Minister for Social Protection sets."
The report from the troika, published by the Department of Finance, also stated that "high-level annual targets" to increase the rollout of generic drugs must be brought in.
And it says a new framework must be introduced to streamline "multiple financial management and accounting systems" in the health service, which has been plagued by spending overruns.
The report also confirmed that water charges were on their way and were due to arrive by the "fourth quarter of 2014".