Mortgage code holds 'no hope' for many in arrears, Dáil hears

Process has to be engaged in for families' and country's recovery, Minister says

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton defended the code. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton defended the code. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Thu, Jun 27, 2013, 12:27

The code of conduct for mortgage arrears is a “charter for home repossessions”, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher said the code, which comes into effect from October 1st, “favours the banks and there is no independent oversight whatsoever”.

He said the banks were under pressure and because of this, they “will become very aggressive in repossessions”.

For the 90,000 families over 90 days in arrears, this code of conduct holds no hope for many of those families, he said.

He said reference was being made to families still watching Sky and not paying their mortgage. “We have situations where families are now on the basic levels of sustenance with regard to food and shelter and heating and they can’t provide for their families in a sustainable way,” he said.

But Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton defended the code and said: “This is a process that has to be engaged in for the recovery of the families involved and for the recovery of the country to a point where we have sustainable debt solutions.”

Ms Burton pointed out that one mortgage broker had said this morning “there is no immediate risk to borrowers”.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the new code for mortgage arrears allowed opportunities for “harassment” of families with the abolition in the code of the limit of three contacts per month from the bank . This code was part of a wider attack on homeowners, she said. She called on the Minister to “explain to families the difference in treatment between the macho men of the banking world and the struggling householder”.

But Ms Burton said given the catastrophe visited on the country, what the Government had set up a process to get the borrower and lender to come together to reach an agreement to allow the family to get back on their feet but also allows the lender to recover a certain proportion.

Independent TD Clare Daly said the real question on the behaviour of the banks in the wake of the release of the phone tapes, was “what are you going to do about it”.

She said 26 members of the Czech Republic’s parliament were currently in custody for lesser offences. She described the banks’ behaviour as the “banking crime of the century and the theft of billions”.

Ms Burton said TDs had to be circumspect in what they said but prosecutions were going ahead next year.

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