The founder of a debt agency that helps people in financial difficulties has backed comments by the master of the High Court raising questions over the legality of repossessions in Ireland.
Ross Maguire of New Beginnings said county registrars are not qualified to make decisions on bank repossessions. "They are expected to make important decisions that are far more nuanced and many of these people are not qualified to do that."
Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan told The Irish Times that county registrars – who grant the majority of repossession orders in the circuit courts – "should not be dealing with these cases at all", as they had neither the legal training nor the legal discretion to apply EU law.
“The rules and procedures of the Circuit Court need to be updated to allow for a hearing with regard to EU legislation on unfair contract terms . . . in every possession case . . . EU law is not an optional extra.”
He said that thousands of orders granted in the Circuit Court to repossess homes may be open to challenge because these courts are not applying EU law.
He criticised the Government for failing to properly protect people facing repossession and said it was instead allowing the courts to “pump people into homelessness”.
“There is a lack of joined-up thinking and a huge amount of ignorance,” he said.
Responding on Monday Mr Maguire told the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk that “some country registrars are vicious in their approach and some are benign”.
“Their qualifications are pretty ad hoc and vague. If they were only dealing with administrative details that would be fine but if you are putting a family into homelessness that is very serious.”
Mr Maguire said that changes in the law meant a borrower can put a proposal to the bank seeking changes in terms and if the bank rejects that proposal then they can seek an order to enforce it.
“There should be judges making these decisions, not county registrars. County registrars should not have to make these orders.”
Mr Maguire said he believed banks were not actively seeking to put people out of their homes. “We have seen situations where the sheriff has been in a home and we have struck a deal.
“People need to know that there are options. Get advice.”
He also called on judges to “step up to the plate” and said he was disappointed at how slow judges were to view changes in law.