Sunday 23 September 2018

'Is it a sick joke?' - Master of High Court criticises Taoiseach's advice to those facing repossession

Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan has drawn up a bill to assist those facing repossession

Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan
Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan
Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, has described advice given by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to those wanting to get a mortgage-to-rent solution as a "sick joke".

Mr Honohan was speaking on Morning Ireland, where he said he had drawn up a bill to assist those facing repossession.

Speaking on radio programme Mr Honohan said he had people coming into his court on a daily basis wanting to stave off repossession.

Some weeks ago Mr Honohan asked some of those coming in the court to write to the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and ask where could they do to get mortgage-to-rent as a solution.

Mr Varadkar advised that they seek advice from the Abhaile service, something Mr Honohan described as "completely wrong, is it a sick joke?"

When asked to expand, Mr Honohan said: "Abhaile is merely a voucher for €200’s worth of legal advice before you go to the circuit court."

Mr Honohan has put together a bill which he thinks offers a solution to the problem. The co-operative mechanism, Mr Honohan says is "the way forward."

"People in arrears don’t have the cash to do a deal [with banks and vulture funds], they already have a bad credit rating and are already sub-prime borrowers."

In describing his bill, Mr Honohan noted that a number of countries in Europe already had a form a co-operative mechanism in place.

"Norway has over one million people live in co-operative housing."

"If community funding can be sourced and made available to a group which can umbrella purchase these houses then that is the way forward."

"It is a question of ethical funding for a large scale... ethical vulture to come in and take over the loan books of the banks who are now under pressure from the European Central Bank."

Referring to PTSB specifically, he suggested that under his scheme the bank would sell the loans to an ethically funded co-operative.

"There is a major source of capital there which is keen to assist avoiding a repeat of the mistakes after the famine."

"It is now a question of applying the law to make it less attractive for vulture funds."

Mr Honohan went on to say that something like 15 bills had been introduced by opposition to deal with housing crisis.

"I put them all together... if you allow a cross-party approach to be developed that recognise existing law, and spell it out in one consolidation bill... if you do that, the vulture funds will go away."

When questioned about people in mortgage arrears in Ireland being some of the most protected in the world, Mr Honohan said historically the cohort of people who were in deep arrears may have been the most protected, but that we must now look forward.

"Do we want to have all these houses vacated? These people are actually technically speaking squatters.”

"The reason they haven’t moved on is because the banks haven’t evicted them, there are hundreds of possession orders that have not been executed."

He went on to say that his proposed bill would not assist "strategic defaulters," that is those who can afford to pay.

"The real strategic defaulters in this are the husbands who haven’t told their wives that they haven’t paid the mortgage, there’s stupidity for you."

Online Editors

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business