Report to Cabinet urges easier repossessions for banks
Expert group recommends system be made more efficient
Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter: presented report to Cabinet. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
An expert group has told the Government that home repossessions should be made easier for banks where mortgages are in arrears.
The report has not recommended any changes in the law but says the system needs to be made more efficient.
The report from the Expert Group on Repossessions was presented to the Cabinet yesterday by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.
A Government spokesman said the recommendations were worthy of being taken note of by the courts and the banks.
The expert group concluded that while the law must seek “proportionately to safeguard the interests of borrowers” there is also “a strong countervailing public interest in protecting the interests of lenders”.
The group said lenders needed to be protected to ensure that funding continued to be made available for the purchase of residential and other property.
“The expert group acknowledges the need for a properly functioning mortgage market in which the rights of both lenders and borrowers under their mortgage contracts are seen, subject to appropriate public policy regulation, to be enforceable.”
The group decided to recommend administrative changes rather than changes in the law to make the system operate more efficiently.
One of the main conclusions was that the execution orders should be issued by the courts at the same time as repossession orders to speed up the whole process.
“The expert group noted that there had been considerable delays in some cases between the granting of the repossession order to the lender and the lender’s later request for an execution order.
“Since the issuing of execution orders by court officials on production by the lender of the relevant repossession order is an administrative rather than judicial function, the group considers that efficiencies could be achieved by issuing an execution order at the same time as the repossession order; the execution order would, where relevant, enter into force on the expiry of any stay on the repossession order.”
The group looked at a sample of 195 contested cases before the Circuit Courts in the period 2009 to 2013.
Of these, 151 applied to private residences, 16 to buy-to-let properties and 28 where the status was unknown.
The average length of time from the issuing of a civil Bill to the granting of a repossession order was 517 days, with a further delay of 262 days before an execution order was issued.
Overall the expert group concluded that significant efficiencies could be achieved through more effective case management by lenders, more harmonised documentation standards and a more structured framework for borrowers in repossession proceedings.
These conclusions will be brought to the attention of the lending institutions and the court rules committees that determine the practices and procedures applicable to proceedings coming before the courts.
One of the difficulties brought to the attention of the expert group was the problem sheriffs experience where an authorised representative of the lender does not attend to identify the property that is the subject of an execution order.
The group also said it had become aware of the difficulties that arise, and that often result in further adjournments, where the grounds for forbearance pleaded by the borrower in defended cases evolve over time.