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Surge in number of households forced to seek a payment break

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There has been a new surge in the number of households forced to get a payment break on their mortgage and consumer loan, new figures show.

A total of 114,500 payment breaks were granted to households up to the end of June, according to a Central Bank report that lays bare difficulties homeowners and businesses are having in meeting their normal repayments.

Close to 62,500 households have availed of a mortgage-payment break, with another 52,000 personal-loan breaks granted.

The figures refer to loans issued by retail banks, credit unions and retail credit and credit servicing firms. This means loans affected include those owned by vulture funds.

Once non-Irish loans are stripped out, the report shows that close to 62,500 residential mortgage borrowers in this country are availing of a Covid-19 payment break.

The value of these payment breaks is close to €10bn, representing close to 10pc of the value of total mortgage advances by lenders here.

In addition, some 8,000 buy-to-let investors are on a payment break.

Another 52,000 payment breaks on consumer loans have been granted to households. These represent around €700m in lending.

Irish retail banks account for the overwhelming number and value of the breaks.

A mortgage payment break can be for three months, but can also be extended for six months. It means not paying anything for that period. While it will not affect people's credit rating, interest will still accrue, and will have to be paid later.

There have been 35,678 payment breaks approved for business borrowers, representing €11bn in loans.

The Central Bank said: "It is clear from the significant scale of payment breaks that it has been a very necessary relief for many borrowers to enable them to deal with the immediate shock that they are experiencing."

It said the scale of payment breaks "speaks to the unprecedented breadth of the shock triggered by Covid-19".

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he warned the banks that the Government would "come down on them like a tonne of bricks" if they made extra profits by charging interest on Covid-19 mortgage payment breaks.

He told the Dáil that during a meeting with bank chiefs when he was still Taoiseach he was "blunt" and said such practice would be viewed as seriously as the tracker mortgage scandal.

Mr Varadkar said there is an increased cost to the banks if a loan is extended.

He said ideally it would be covered by the banks' profits, but there will be no profits this year and possibly for a number of years due to the pandemic economic crisis.

Mr Varadkar said taxpayers should not have to bear the cost and it wouldn't be fair to those that don't have a mortgage or business.

Irish Independent