Friday 22 March 2019

Rent-free: How do you get away with not paying mortgage for nine years?

‘Played ball’: Ronan Ryan and Pamela Flood. Photo: Gerry Mooney
‘Played ball’: Ronan Ryan and Pamela Flood. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

The case of Ronan Ryan and Pamela Flood has attracted lots of attention after a court was told that the last payment on their mortgage was in 2010.

Tanager, a vulture fund that owns the couple's mortgage, is seeking to repossess their home at 136 Mount Prospect Avenue in leafy Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Mr Ryan says he has "played ball" all along and has been agreeing to sell the house for the last seven years, but that no sale had gone through.

Ms Flood, who won the Miss Ireland contest in 1993, is also a former host of 'Off The Rails' television series and several RTÉ shows.

Their house in Clontarf, Dublin, where they have lived without making a mortgage payment since 2010
Their house in Clontarf, Dublin, where they have lived without making a mortgage payment since 2010

The mortgage, originally borrowed from Bank of Scotland, had changed hands a number of times, Mr Ryan said, adding that those sales had sent the family "back to square one" about resolving the matter.

Financial analyst Karl Deeter says the Irish system makes it perfectly possible for a family to stay in their home for a long time without paying their mortgage.

Mr Deeter, in tandem with UCC lecturer Seamus Coffey and Brendan Burgess of Askaboutmoney.ie, carried out a major research project on repossessions here a number of years ago.

He said banks' efforts to repossess houses became more difficult in 2009 and 2010 because the Central Bank put in place a moratorium on repossessing houses.

Their house in Clontarf, Dublin, where they have lived without making a mortgage payment since 2010
Their house in Clontarf, Dublin, where they have lived without making a mortgage payment since 2010

Initially, a lender had to wait six months before it could start legal proceedings against a homeowner, then this was extended in 2010 to 12 months. This delay-causing regime was later scrapped.

Then there was the emergence of the mortgage sales which saw banks selling off loans in order to reduce their bad debts. Some loans have been sold multiple times, adding extra delay to the process as repossession efforts begin again.

"Every time [the loan] moves, it kind of stops you dead," Mr Deeter said. That factor looks to be key in explaining how Mr Ryan and Ms Flood have remained in the home for so long.

There is also the issue of legal delays which can also add years to a repossession process. That applies in individual cases, but it also applies for so-called 'test cases' where funds and banks wait for a particular ruling before deciding whether to repossess a property. If the outcome is favourable, the bank or fund might decide to repossess, whereas if the outcome is unfavourable they may not do so.

Tanager itself, the owner of Mr Ryan's mortgage, was recently involved in a case that was sent to the Court of Appeal by High Court judge Seamus Noonan, who said the issues at the heart of the matter could affect hundreds of cases.

Complications, and therefore the potential for delay, also arise when a family home was involved, Mr Deeter said. In Ms Flood and Ms Ryan's case, Ms Flood is not a defendant because Mr Ryan took out the mortgage.

However, because she married Mr Ryan in 2014, she was joined as a 'notice party' because her interests are at stake if Tanager takes the home. That means she has the right to have arguments on her behalf heard in court.

There is no suggestion that Ms Flood being a notice party has contributed in any way to the length of time that the couple have been in their home without the mortgage being paid. However, in principle it's possible to see how notice parties can add complexity to legal matters.

Mr Ryan used to own restaurants including Town Bar & Grill and South, but was hit financially by the 2008 recession. He now runs a contract catering business.

Mr Ryan told the Irish Independent that they would be "out before the end of the spring".

Irish Independent

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