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38,000 homeowners at least two years behind on mortgage payments

38,000 homeowners at least two years behind on mortgage payments

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David Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation

David Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation

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38,000 homeowners at least two years behind on mortgage payments

Thousands of families face the threat of having their homes repossessed ahead of the next election with almost 38,000 borrowers now more than two years behind on their mortgages.

"The train has left the station, but it's going to come off the rails very soon. We will have a massive wave of family homes being seized," David Hall, CEO of Irish Mortgage Holders Association warned.

Mr Hall said the Government has loudly trumpeted the reduction of borrowers up to 90 days in arrears while ignoring the catastrophic numbers who have arrears of 720 days or more.

"It's a stroke. They are manipulating the figures to put the best possible spin on mortgage debt," he added,

Mr Hall pointed out that 37,484 individual mortgages are now more than two years behind on house and apartment payments. The average arrears on those accounts is touching €45,000.

That suggests that thousands of distressed borrowers have little or no chance of ever getting back on an even keel under current arrangements.

Total arrears on distressed home loans more than two years in arrears is now a staggering €1.8bn on mortgages worth €8bn.

Mr Hall pointed out that the banks have already told the Central Bank that 49,000 families face repossession, affecting 150,000 people.

"I know we are currently facing a homelessness and housing crisis but it will pale in comparison with what's coming down the tracks," he said.

Existing efforts to find long-term solutions to mortgage debt were dealt a hammer blow in the courts last week.

On Thursday, the High Court ruled that if a mortgage provider had not signed up to the voluntary mortgage-to-rent scheme, then it did not have to offer the scheme to distressed borrowers.

Mr Hall represented a Dublin couple with five children who are in mortgage arrears. The family wanted to be put forward for the Government -backed mortgage-to-rent scheme, when other alternatives to allow them to keep their home, had failed.

Under this scheme a private housing agency would buy the house at market value and the family would become tenants of the agency.

However, Stepstone Mortgage Funding Limited, told the court they do not participate in the mortgage-to-rent scheme.

The company said it has a pilot scheme in place with ten borrowers to allow it to assess whether it would reconsider getting involved in the scheme.

Stepstone's Richard Harper told the court the scheme was extremely complicated, costly and was almost unworkable.

Mr Justice Michael White found there was a conflict of facts before the court as to whether Stepstone had signed up to the scheme or was merely involved in a pilot programme.

He said if Stepstone had signed up then it had to offer the scheme to the couple.

If it had not, he said the couple could not resist an order for the possession of their home.

He adjourned the case to allow Stepstone to produce evidence to show that it was a pilot scheme.

Afterwards, Mr Hall said he hoped the couple would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

He said the decision showed the mortgage-to-rent scheme was purely voluntary and could only be availed of by borrowers if they were offered it by their lender.

In a statement, Stepstone Mortgages said it had a policy of not discussing the details of any individual cases.

Sunday Independent