Minister to meet AG amid fears of ECB veto on repossession law

Flanagan wants measure to help distressed mortgageholders to be passed as soon as possible

The FLAC report seeks wider powers for the courts in dealing with mortgage holders in deep arrears. Photograph: iStock

The FLAC report seeks wider powers for the courts in dealing with mortgage holders in deep arrears. Photograph: iStock

 

The Minister for Justice will meet the Attorney General this week to discuss fears about a possible “veto” by the European Central Bank (ECB)concerning a proposed new law to help people facing respossession of their homes.

Charlie Flanagan said he “would not by any means find it satisfactory that people would form the view that the ECB would have a veto on our national legislation”.

He is “very keen” the new measure would proceed through the houses of the Oireachtas this autumn “at the earliest possible opportunity”, he said. He was speaking at the launch in Dublin of the annual report of the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC).

Concerns of a possible ECB veto were outlined in media reports at the weekend to the effect the planned Courts and Land Conveyancing Amendment Bill , which addresses the proportionality of the courts granting or executing possession orders and gives courts more flexibility in that regard, would have to be sent to the ECB.

Referring to those reports, FLAC chief executive Eilis Barry said she understood Dáil standing orders require the Bill be sent to the ECB for consultation purposes only.

She was concerned the ECB should not be in a position to veto the provisions of the Bill. FLAC was awaiting “with great concern” the outcome of the consultation process and was anxious to hear the views of the Minister.

Dedicated arrears court

The FLAC report seeks wider powers for the courts in dealing with mortgage holders in “deep” arrears.

Ms Barry also stressed there is a “significant unmet legal need” concerning housing and homelessness and various legal rights measures are urgently required.

These include providing a “clear basis in law” for refusing to make an order for possession in the case of default involving the family home, she said.

To that end, FLAC had drafted an amendment to the existing Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 and looked forward to the Government response to that.

FLAC also sought implementation of the commitment in the Programme for Government to establish a dedicated court/tribunal which can deal with problem mortgage arrears on a case by case basis.

It has also urged the Government to ensure legal aid is available to people facing family home repossessions and has drafted an amendment to the Civil Legal Aid Act to provide for that.

In launching the FLAC report, Mr Flanagan said: “Nobody should have their home repossessed without clear access to the best legal advice available.” He was very keen to ensure that was the case, he added.

Housing challenge

He said he wanted to reaffirm the government’s commitment to helping people facing mortgage arrears. A “huge amount” of work had been done, including via the Abhaile scheme offering independent professional advice and free financial advice and assistance to those at risk of losing their home. If the scheme required improvement, he would consider that, he added.

In response to questions about homelessness and housing, he said it will come as “no surprise” that the housing challenge will be the most dominant political activity of the new parliamentary term.

The FLAC report disclosed its telephone information and referral line dealt with 12,003 calls from members of the public and its 66 centres nationwide received 13,814 visitors.

A quarter of calls to the phone line concerned family law, 10 per cent employment law while 7 per cent were housing related. Of those attending FLAC clinics, more than a third of the 13,814 users had queries about family law, 16 per cent related to employment law, 9 per cent related to will/probate and 7 per cent to housing and tenant issues.