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Families in UK bankruptcy bids could lose home

A UK bankruptcy lawyer is warning Irish wives that their homes are still at risk if their husband flees overseas in a bid to lose their debt.

Steve Thatcher said that the pressure of mounting debt in Ireland is causing dozens of families to break up.

Often a developer or a businessman in trouble would consider a move to the UK in the mistaken belief that he can leave his wife and family still with their home in Ireland.

JEOPARDY

But the bankruptcy expert warned couples that it is not possible to simply walk away from debt without putting the family home in jeopardy.

"A lot of this depends on whether the wife is jointly or separately liable," he said.

"If she is liable, as well as the developer, then they have a choice to make – either up and move as a family or go through the bankruptcy in Ireland. If they come to the UK, they have to prove that it is the centre of main interest and it would be inconsistent with claiming in front of the British courts that they want to retain their family home. There has to be substance behind it."

Mr Thatcher said that, in the last four years, he has noticed a massive increase in the number of individuals flocking to the UK in search of bankruptcy.

Up until the change in insolvency rules this year, the UK was viewed as an attractive option for many as bankrupts faced just one year in financial purgatory while, in Ireland, the period was 12 years.

Mr Thatcher said that each circumstance is individual, but couples need to be aware of the rights and responsibilities when one person decides to leave.

"If the wife has not been involved in the borrowing (or the mortgage), the husband can leave and get rid of all his business liabilities," he explained.

"If she is on the mortgage, she has a right to turn to the receiver and does have a right to keep the roof over kids' heads."

"If there is no equity on the property, they can sell that beneficial interest back to the spouse."

However, Mr Thatcher said that if the couple are sharing out repayments between them, the mortgage repayments fall under the normal rules of repossession in Ireland and a bank can come knocking.

ENQUIRIES

"If she can't keep up mortgage payments on the house, at some point the creditor will accrue the right to acquire the house," he explained.

Mr Thatcher says he now receives at least 20 enquiries a week and spends a day in Dublin once a week.

He is expanding the service to people based in Cork and Galway – further information is available at www.helpwithdebtuk.com

142,000 in serious mortgage debt, see p17


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