Loan funds circle over indebted farmers' private family homes
International lenders 'escalating' demands on borrowers, warns debt expert
Farmers struggling with massive boom-era debts are now being asked to provide internet map links to their home to international loan funds as part of final settlement agreements.
It has also emerged that companies representing these loan funds have asked land-owner representatives during negotiations to supply online information - such as links on Google maps - on the location of borrowers' homes.
Debt resolution consultant Matt Carey said loan fund representatives were increasingly seeking online links to the borrowers' homes, even where the residence had not been given as security for loans.
These developments mark a serious escalation in the pressures and demands being foisted on heavily indebted individuals, the debt advisor claimed.
Mr Carey said he had refused all such requests but he described the demands as indicative of the harder line on loans being taken by loan funds.
"Loan funds looking for links to borrowers' homes is an intrusion in a person's private life and is totally unacceptable as far as I'm concerned," Mr Carey said. "But what we have here is an awful lot of Irish land that is now effectively owned by foreign companies and they're asking local farmers to buy it back."
Mr Carey said he had never before been asked that borrowers pay the legal costs of the lender.
"I have clients that are emptying every piggy bank to come up with the money for a settlement, and now they are being asked to pay the legal fees of the lender. It is ridiculous," he said.
"I don't accept for one minute that this should be the case. But it's being asked for now."
When borrowers are in arrears banks and loan funds can insist costs including legal bills are added to the overall bill. It is understood that individual requirements of the various international loan funds vary and can differ on an individual loan basis.
Mr Carey explained that the legal fees involved varied, but usually started at around €500. He said loan fund representatives had threatened in correspondence that the lenders would walk away from agreements with borrowers and pursue the full debt if the legal fees were not paid.
IFA farm business chair Martin Stapleton said individuals have the same rights whether their loan is with a bank or a vulture fund.
"Vulture funds want a quick resolution and farmers can use this to their advantage. I would repeat the importance of getting expert advice to make the strongest case," he said.
ICSA rural development chair Seamus Sherlock said a "reasonable negotiated settlement" is always the best option. "Going for the jugular and trying to squeeze every last cent out of assets cannot be described as reasonable and is not in anyone's best interest in the long term," he said.
ICMSA president John Comer said it will increase the wariness of farmers around the funds. A number of banks have sold billions of euro in non-performing debts, including farm loans, to international funds. Settlements of these debts are now being negotiated.
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