Tuesday 23 December 2014

Arrears misery may be close to reaching its peak

Published 22/06/2013 | 05:00

THIS country has the distinction of having one of the worst mortgage arrears problems in the world.

The latest figures show that one in four mortgage-holders is now in some form of arrears or making reduced monthly repayments with the agreement of their lender.

And one in three buy-to-let investors is not meeting their originally agreed repayments.

Optimists tried to zero in on the fact that the numbers getting into arrears for the first time eased off slightly in the first three months of the year.

PROBLEMS

The figures are dreadful, but the fact that there has been a minor fall in the numbers getting into arrears means we could be close to a peak in the numbers of families in mortgage trouble.

Those mortgage-holders whose problems could be fixed easily with a short-term forbearance measure like interest-only have mainly been dealt with by banks at this stage.

The real business of sorting out the messier cases has only just begun.

By the end of this month, banks will have to demonstrate to the Central Bank that they have made offers of long-term solutions to at least 20pc of their home-loan customers in difficulty.

At the end of the year, half of those in trouble will have to have had an offer made to them.

And banks are getting significant new powers. They will be able to repossess again, and will not have to wait a year before issuing legal proceedings against those in arrears.

Many mortgage advocates think the powers being given to the banks are too extensive.

The banks seem to have convinced the powers that be that vast numbers of those in arrears could go back to paying at least part of their mortgage if the problem is tackled properly.

PAYMENTS

Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan said recently that an examination of arrears cases has indicated that large numbers could make payments – if they get a deal from their bank, or shift payments away from other, less essential bills.

The next few months are going to test out that theory.

Irish Independent

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