Repossession reforms ‘could drive up interest rates’

Government and Central Bank issue warnings over ‘Boxer’ Moran’s proposed legislation

 Independent Alliance member Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran proposed the Keeping People in their Homes Bill, 2017. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Independent Alliance member Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran proposed the Keeping People in their Homes Bill, 2017. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A proposal from an Independent Alliance member to allow courts to take into account additional factors in repossession cases, including the effect of home loss on children, could drive up interest rates and restrict credit, the Department of Finance and Central Bank have warned.

Kevin “Boxer” Moran, who is now the Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW), tabled a Bill based on the proposal before he took up his ministerial position last month.

A briefing document prepared by the Department of Finance for its new Minister, Paschal Donohoe, outlines a number of concerns with Mr Moran’s plans.

The document indicated that the department and the Central Bank both agreed that the Bill could have a “negative impact on the availability of credit, with possible knock-on effects such as higher interest rates”.

Mr Moran’s Keeping People in their Homes Bill, 2017, would create a statutory base for courts to take into account a range of new factors when deciding on repossession cases.

Courts would be able to consider the effect home loss would have on all members of the household, particularly in terms of their physical and mental health.

Courts would also be able to examine alternative arrangements to repossession, such as mortgage-to-rent schemes, and whether there is alternative accommodation available that would allow the family to stay together.

Programme for government

The Bill aims to follow through on commitments in the programme for government to avoid repossessions “insofar as is possible”.

Mr Moran pressed for the Bill’s progression in meetings with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar after Mr Varadkar took over as Fine Gael leader.

A spokesman for Mr Moran said the proposed legislation had recently been slightly amended and would likely be transposed into the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act, 2013.

The briefing document for Mr Donohoe noted: “This Bill seeks to facilitate the courts in effectively examining the ‘proportionality’ of granting, adjourning, varying, postponing, suspending or executing possession orders.”

It said the Department of Justice also had concerns about the Bill, and that Frances Fitzgerald, the former minister for justice, had met Mr Moran on the issue.

A spokesman for Mr Moran said the junior minister had also met the new Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, and expected that the main proposals in the Bill would proceed.