Sunday 17 December 2017

Government announce new support plan for stricken homeowners

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Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The Government has launched a scheme to give funding to people at risk of having their homes repossessed to seek the services of personal insolvency experts.

Around €15m is being spent on the service, to be known as Abhaile – the Irish for home. It offers financial and legal advice and will be free for those who are eligible.

To qualify for the scheme, the mortgage holder must be in arrears and insolvent.

People can apply for the scheme through the Money Advice and Budgeting Service or through a personal insolvency practitioner (PIP).

Eligible clients are given vouchers to pay for expert advice from financial and legal advisers to help them sort out their debt issues.

They can get assistance in court, have access to solicitors, and get help obtaining legal aid.

They can also get financial advice from a dedicated mortgage arrears adviser, a personal insolvency practitioner (PIP), or an accountant, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the number of people in mortgage arrears has been falling consistently but there are still 35,000 mortgage accounts in arrears of 720 days or more.

“Many of them have been served repossession orders, and many are at risk of losing their homes, and are not engaging with their lenders out of fear of despair.”

Mr Varadkar said the objective of the scheme is to help those who are insolvent to stay in their homes and prevent the “drift towards homelessness”.

He said there are people who need the assistance of Government to resolve their debt issues.

“I really want to appeal to those people, if they haven't engaged with MABS, to do so now.”

However, head of the Irish Mortgage Holders’ Organisation David Hall questioned if the new scheme would work.

“I am deeply concerned that this is target the problem in the wrong way.

He said his preference would be for emergency action to be taken to involve all service providers being given debtors’ details under Data Protection legislation to allow one-to-one proactive contact be made to offer help.

“People are scared and have no money and, therefore, options are limited. People should then be offered help from a central one stop shop rather than a scattered approach being suggested,” he said.

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