Monday 19 February 2018

Help plan on way for families in mortgage arrears

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald (Photo: Tom Burke)
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald (Photo: Tom Burke)
John Downing

John Downing

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will tomorrow seek Cabinet approval for a €15m aid package for families at risk of eviction for mortgage arrears.

The centrepiece of the three-year programme, which will cost €5m per year, will be an independent legal and financial advice service to help distressed householders identify their best options in a time of crisis. It will also provide for help in negotiating the best possible terms.

The package is in line with Programme for Government pledges on helping those in mortgage distress to hold on to the homes.

It follows an announcement of an increase in rent supplement and comes ahead of the Government's housing plan, which is due to be announced by Housing Minister Simon Coveney later this month.

The package includes changes to court procedures to have repossession cases heard by specialist judges. They can also be heard in private if the householder requests this.

There will also be what is described as "a targeted information campaign" to ensure that people in this predicament are aware of all the supports which are available and how to access these.

Ms Fitzgerald (pictured) first signalled the advice scheme in January and officials have said it is now ready to be put into action.

Under this advice scheme, a borrower in serious mortgage arrears and at risk of losing their home can access free advice and help from a solicitor, a personal-insolvency practitioner or an accountant, using a voucher system.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) will be the first point of contact for accessing the service.

After an initial consultation, Mabs can direct the distressed mortgage holder to the professional best fixed to help.

Mabs will be able to give a voucher for a borrower to have a face-to-face consultation with a solicitor for legal advice.

A duty solicitor will also be on hand at the repossession courts and available to help represent a distressed mortgage holder.

Help will also be provided for people to appeal in the courts against a refusal by banks to accept a deal.

Irish Independent

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