35% in arrears not engaging - Ulster

Jim Brown says people deliberately deciding not to pay their mortgages was ‘not fair’

Ulster Bank Chief Executive Jim Brown says people deliberately deciding not to pay their mortgages was ‘not fair’


Ulster Bank chief executive Jim Brown has said it “is not fair” that a number of mortgage holders with the bank believe they can live in their homes without making payments or engaging with the bank.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Brown said there had been a breakdown in payment discipline with these customers since the second quarter of 2011 and that, at this stage, some 35 per cent of customers in arrears were not dealing with the bank.

The bank operates in the Republic and Northern Ireland and Mr Brown said in the case of the North, a correlation between mortgage arrears and unemployment was holding true. However, this was not the case in the Republic.

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He said it appeared sight had been lost of two key fundamentals that are the basis of any mortgage market - the cost of living in a home and the fact that secured debt must be prioritised by a lender.

Mr Brown said “there continues to be a sizeable minority” who have not engaged with us and are refusing to make any payment on their mortgages.

The Central Bank has required all of the domestic lenders to have proposed sustainable mortgage solutions for 20 per cent of distressed borrowers by June of this year.

Ulster, the committee heard, has exceeded the Central Bank and has provided solutions for over 30 per cent of customers in arrears.

He said the bank had committed more than 400 staff to work through mortgage arrears with customers, and that Ulster Bank had a wide range of options and was committed ensuring as many people as possible keep their homes.

Mr Brown Ulster Bank hopes to return to profitability in 2014 and said the business as moving in the right direction.