Kenny open to independent review of home repossessions

Taoiseach tells Dáil further measures due next month to help families in difficulty

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he would like to see the banks doing more for people in mortgage difficulty. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he would like to see the banks doing more for people in mortgage difficulty. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

The introduction of an independent review of the process leading to house repossessions should be examined, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil on Tuesday.

Mr Kenny said the Minister for justice had introduced an amendment that, perhaps, there should be an independent review of the options put forward by the practitioner before the matter went to the court.

“I think that is something we have to look at it,” he added.

He said another series of measures would be introduced next month designed to assist people who were trying to retain their family homes.

Mr Kenny said there should also be an examination of the options open to a family, where the value of the house was reduced to market level who still could not meet the conditions involved.

The Taoiseach was replying to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin who accused the Government of inactivity in dealing with the escalating problem of mortgage repossessions and arrears.

Earlier, Mr Kenny had said he would like to see the banks doing more for people in mortgage difficulty.

Speaking before the Cabinet meeting, Mr Kenny said the Government did not want to see houses repossessed. There were very difficult cases but more options existed in Ireland than in other countries, he added.

Asked if he thought the banks were doing enough, he said: “I’d like to see them engage more. Clearly you don’t want numbers of people where this hangs over their head on a continuous basis.”

100,000 homes secured

Mr Kenny said over 100,000 homes had been secured.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly also suggested that the insolvency legislation would have to be changed.

He said banks must be “forced” to engage with insolvency arrangements.

Asked if he thought the banks were doing enough for those in mortgage difficulty, he said: “No, I don’t. I think the banks need to change their position and do so quickly.

“I believe that the issue of repossessions is a critical issue and we’re going to have to re-look at it.”

Mr Kelly said the banks needed to engage “at a different level”.

“If that doesn’t start at a level it needs to soon, it will be up to Government to act and I think it’s probably near that point now,” he said.

He said the current legislation needed tweaking and the matter would have to be addressed in the very near future.

Banks should start thinking about the consequences of such legislation and begin engaging on the basis that there would be change, he added.

“It’s about forcing the banks to engage, that’s the most important thing.”

Repossession and engagement

On Monday Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said banks are using the threat of repossession to get home owners to engage with them.

Mr Noonan was speaking in Brussels prior to a meeting of finance ministers and was reacting to figures published in The Irish Times showing banks are attempting to repossess more than 7,000 homes across the State.

“I don’t think the figures show a lot of houses being repossessed by banks. I think what the figures show is the banks using the courts to get people to engage with them who haven’t engaged,” Mr Noonan said.

“The Government position is we don’t see repossession as a solution and we don’t want repossession to be a solution, but there is a whole menu of solutions.

“Over 90,000 mortgages have been restructured over the last three years. In December alone, 2,500 mortgages have been restructured.

“What we want people to do is to engage with their lenders and see if they can work out a restructuring that will be suitable for their particular case, but we don’t see repossession as part of the solution.”

Figures released to The Irish Times by the courts service indicates that, as of January 1st, some 7,101 civil bills for repossession had been lodged by the banks across the State’s 26 circuit courts.

Michael McGrath

Speaking on Morning Ireland on Tuesday, Fianna Fail finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said that the Government was “in complete denial” with regard the scale of the mortgage crisis, and that they were “fundametnally out of touch”.

Mr McGrath went on to say that the Government were understating the fact that for every house repossessed, three family homes were lost under durress from the bank.

Pointing to potential solutions to repossessions, Mr McGrath said the Government had allowed the banks to “hijack” the issue rather than focusing on mortgage-to-rent schemes and other sustainable solutions.