State bids to protect mortgage holders as loans sold
OFFICIALS in the Department of Finance are examining ways to give consumer protections to people who took out mortgages with the former Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS).
The Irish Nationwide mortgage book is due to be sold, which would mean that the homeowners would not be covered by Central Bank protections.
When the IBRC was liquidated a year ago, the building society's residential loan book, along with office furniture and paintings, were put up for sale on behalf of the State by the special liquidators.
There are some 13,250 mortgages that were originally taken out with Irish Nationwide, but were later moved into IBRC.
Around half of these mortgages are in arrears, but the Central Bank's rules on how people who are in arrears are treated may not apply to a new owner of the mortgage book.
Now the Department of Finance and the Central Bank have revealed they are looking at ways to ensure the code of conduct on mortgage arrears can be imposed on the buyer of the mortgage book.
The fear is that the mortgages will be taken over by a lender that is not regulated in Ireland.
A spokesman for the Central Bank said: "The Central Bank is concerned that the consumer protections available to mortgage holders under the statutory codes could be impacted by the sale of mortgage books to unregulated firms.
"The Central Bank has expressed this concern and is working closely with the Department of Finance on the issue."
There is also a fear among mortgage holders that they will not be able to make a complaint to the financial services ombudsman if the loan book is taken over by a firm that is not regulated here.
This newspaper has already highlighted that the mortgage holders cannot offer to pay off their mortgages at a discount, unlike larger corporate customers of IBRC, which took over Anglo Irish Bank along with Irish Nationwide.
Denise McCormack of IBRC Mortgage Holders, a lobby group for former Irish Nationwide customers, said residential mortgage holders should be treated in the same way as IBRC's commercial clients.
Meanwhile, the sale of the mortgages could be delayed further because vital paperwork for Irish Nationwide home loans is incomplete or missing.