| 5.7°C Dublin

New judges to 'speed up' repossessions

SPECIALIST judges are being recruited on salaries of €140,000 each to speed up the repossession of homes by banks.

It came after the IMF warned that the overall number of repossessions in Ireland was very low, with just 0.3pc of those in arrears losing their homes compared to rates of 3pc in Britain and 5pc in USA.

The IMF called for changes to the courts process so that banks would be able to repossess houses faster.

It said that specialist judges could be used in the High Court and the Circuit Court to handle "a potentially larger volume of repossession cases in an expedited manner".

"Banks report Circuit Court proceedings take a number of years due to adjournments and subsequent appeals. By comparison, the process is faster in the UK, with many cases completed in one to two years," it said.

Figures produced by the IMF showed an average of almost six years to secure a repossession in Ireland – exceeded only by Portugal and Italy.

The Government has already committed to closing a loophole in the law, which has effectively prevented most house repossessions for the past two years. But the IMF staff report wants further measures to "strengthen the efficiency" of the repossession regime, on top of the recruitment of specialist judges.

It recommends legislation which would prevent the courts adjourning a repossession case where the borrowers had made only a "token payments".

It said the house buyer should have to make a substantial payment, as well as present a repayment plan, to avoid repossession.

The IMF report specifically linked the repossession of houses to the health of the property market, saying that having slow and costly legal procedures for repossessions would lead to a slower recovery in house sales.

It has emerged that the Government has already acted in this area, with advertisements being placed for six specialist Circuit Court judges to deal with personal insolvency cases – which will include home repossessions.

The new judges will be recruited from the ranks of the country's 20-plus county registrars. They will be paid salaries of €140,623.

But they will have to work Monday to Friday throughout the calendar year – and will not have the "long vacation" during August and September available to regular judges.

The comments are likely to heap further pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny's Government, who have repeatedly insisted that repossession of houses will only happen as a "last resort".

Irish Independent