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Monday 19 March 2018

Most in mortgage crisis 'strike deal with banks'

Laura Noonan and Ralph Riegel

Banking sources last night confirmed that the "vast majority" of people who run into difficulty with their mortgages work out a deal with their banks -- and most of these deals involve at least some regular payments.

The comments came as new figures from the Central Bank showed that 77,630 households -- or 10.2pc of all homeowners -- were more than three months behind on their mortgages by the end of March.

The figure, which doesn't include buy-to-let properties, is 6,685 higher than it was at the end of December. Tens of thousands more households are in arrears of three months or less, but these figures are not published.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said dealing with the issue of mortgages was a "critical" challenge and that the Government would apply a "great deal of activity and diligence" to it "once the referendum is out of the way".

The Central Bank has urged lenders to come up with more creative solutions for borrowers, rather than using 'band aid' measures that don't help customers to move out of arrears.

Yesterday's figures show that 79,712 mortgages are already classed as 'restructured'. In most cases the borrowers are making at least some repayments.

Just 3,400 of all the restructured mortgages are definitively classed as attracting no payments, since those homeowners agreed a temporary 'moratorium' with their banks.


The Central Bank said other people might also be making no payments, since some people who had done deals with their banks might not have been able to stick to the new schedules.

But banking sources said "almost all" of those who enter restructuring arrangements stuck to the new plans and carried on making payments.

About half of the restructured mortgages are paying 'interest only' or 'less than interest only', so their debts aren't getting any smaller.

However, the Central Bank is pushing lenders to stop using 'interest only', since it doesn't address the issue of repayment of the outstanding principal.

Banks will submit new plans next week, proposing more creative solutions. They will also be expected to demonstrate how they will reduce their arrears numbers.

The latest figures show that almost 80pc of those in arrears are now more than six months behind on their loans -- proving that arrears are not being "cured" by the banks' solutions.

These new solutions could see banks take partial ownership of some properties. This would mean that the payments made by homeowners would at least reduce their debts.

Banks could also write off some of the money that they are owed or 'park' part of the loan so that it no longer attracts interest or other payments.

"The banks were recapitalised to deal with losses in the area of mortgage distress," MrKenny said yesterday, adding that government assistance would only be for "people who are genuinely in distress and who cannot meet their mortgages".

Irish Independent

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