Facing mortgage distress 10 years after crash

 

Sir, – Colm Keena’s depiction of the Circuit Court in Tullamore (“Large proportion of repossession cases at Midland Court initiated since 2015”, Home News, November 28th) confirms the findings of our recent report House Hold and an earlier study looking specifically at access to justice for people in mortgage distress.

House Hold, a study of people coping with mortgage distress, reveals that, despite the popular narrative that all is different now in our new-found economic buoyancy, thousands of families continue to fear the bluntest impact of the crash – the loss of their home.

Just as Colm Keena describes, many people feel abandoned and isolated, too often left to navigate a court system that they find intimidating and confusing, without legal representation. In the House Hold survey, we found that 83 per cent of people did not have a solicitor to represent them. Access to Justice and the ECB, a study carried out by the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, found that 70 per cent of home loan debtors had no recorded legal representation in mortgage possession cases.

In contrast, as described at Tullamore Circuit Court, the finance companies are very well represented. In a cruel twist, those in mortgage distress who themselves have no legal representation end up paying the legal fees of the finance companies through their repayment arrangements.

Our research also shows that, while they may be well-intentioned, the State’s apparatus for supporting people in mortgage distress is not working. Over 90 per cent of people we surveyed for House Hold said that they have not requested a consultation through the Abhaile scheme; they simply don’t trust that the limited consultation on offer can realistically help, based on their experiences in the judicial system and government agencies.

So, 10 years on from the crash, approximately 66,000 mortgages continue to be in arrears. The ordinary families behind this statistic are the collateral damage of an era that we seem keen to erase from our memory – one where abusive lending was the quickest route to corporate profit, regardless of the human impact.

Mr Keena’s article sums up this impact so well. – Yours, etc,

CECILIA FORRESTAL,

Community Action Network,

Dublin 2 &

Dr PADRAIC KENNA,

School of Law,

NUIG, Galway.