Monday 20 November 2017

Private members’ bill for struggling mortgage holders shot down in Dail

By Lyndsey Telford

PROPOSALS for new legislation aimed at protecting struggling mortgage holders in danger of losing their homes has been shot down.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly presented a Private Members' Bill in the Dail, suggesting judges should be allowed to use their own discretion in individual repossession cases.

But Justice Minister Alan Shatter dismissed the Bill as unworkable and flawed.

"This bill could make matters worse rather than better," said Mr Shatter.

"It is important that we find the correct balance between the homeowners and the institutions, and the deputy's Bill does not do that."

Deputies from all parties commended Mr Donnelly for his intentions and praised certain aspects of the bill.

But the Wicklow and East Carlow TD conceded there were some finer technical issues that needed to be addressed and that he would therefore withdraw the Bill to prevent it from going to a Dail vote and potentially dividing the house.

Mr Donnelly had consulted with New Beginnings, a group of voluntary lawyers who represent hard-pressed homeowners in repossession cases.

He said it was clear that in many such instances, the law is weighted in favour of the banks.

But Mr Shatter said even with some of the Bill's unsound legalities, it would be too costly and time-consuming for the courts.

Enacting it would "require the courts to consider unnecessary and unworkable, and constitutionally flawed factors", he went on.

"There is no magic bullet. All solutions have significant consequences and potential costs."

However, the minister added that he welcomed Mr Donnelly's efforts and advised him that he would be willing to have an informal meeting to advise him on any suggestions he may have in the future.

Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly said he hopes his proposals are taken into consideration when the Government's recently announced Personal Insolvency Bill goes before the Joint Oireachtas Committee in March.

"There are several technical factors that do need to be addressed in my proposal," said Mr Donnelly.

"But it seems the nub of it could be included in the Personal Insolvency Bill."

The legislation, which Mr Shatter and Finance Minister Michael Noonan presented together last month, aims to give people struggling with debt the opportunity to negotiate for more time and restructured payment plans with lenders.

One part of the Bill allows for the write-down of personal loans in some cases. It has also revised down the bankruptcy discharge period from 12 years to three.

Press Association

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