Opinion Comment

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Shane Phelan: ''Strokestown effect' could lead to a repossession rethink by lenders'


The home in Strokestown, Roscommon
The home in Strokestown, Roscommon
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The three-line note from the Dublin City Sheriff was brief and clinical.

It informed the occupants of a house in the suburb of Cabra that his office had been in receipt of a High Court order dated November 28, 2018.

"If you do not vacate the premises by 12 noon on Thursday, January 10, 2019, I shall attend without notice to take possession of the above premises," it read.

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"If you have any goods on the premises it would be well for you to remove same because if I have to put them on the street, I will not be responsible for any loss incurred through breakage or theft."

While the words appear cold and detached, it must be stated the sheriff was only doing his job, which is a difficult one, particularly in the middle of an unprecedented housing crisis.

It is his function, and the function of county registrars in other parts of the country, to enforce possession orders from the courts.

Thankfully for the occupants of this house, a widow and two of her children, he will be able to give this repossession a skip following an 11th-hour reprieve.

You could call it the 'Strokestown effect', but the about-turn in this case is being attributed by mortgage debt campaigner David Hall to the threat of a protest at the planned repossession.

He says the repossession had been scheduled to go ahead even though the approved housing body he heads up, iCare Housing, had made an offer to lender Start Mortgages to buy the property.

In a Twitter posting on Sunday, Mr Hall said that if the sheriff came he would ask people to attend and protest. By the following day Start was ready to agree to iCare's proposal.

It will see iCare buying the house and the family renting it as social housing tenants, giving them the security of a roof over their heard for the foreseeable future.

Start has declined to comment publicly. Not many lenders do when it comes to repossession cases.

However, it is understood its executives insist the decision to accept iCare's proposal was purely based on the strength of the offer made and they reject it was a direct consequence of the protest threat.

Mr Hall sees things differently. The breakthrough, he said, was "100pc" linked to his tweet. He says he will be encouraging active peaceful protests at repossessions in future.

The question now for lenders is whether securing possession of a property will be worth the hassle and negative publicity should things spiral out of control as they did in Strokestown.

Irish Independent

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