A major research report confirms, for the first time, that almost half of the mortgage possession cases listed before the courts are being pursued by “household name” banks, which are directly supervised by the European Central Bank.
The research, A Lost Decade – Study on Mortgage Possession Court Lists in Ireland, was carried out by Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway. The report examined some 12,650 mortgage possession cases between April and December 2019, and provides a detailed breakdown of the financial institutions seeking possession of homes.
The ECB ‘significant’ supervised entities accounting for 46% of the listed cases in the study period are AIB (and its subsidiaries ), Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and KBC.
The report also reveals that one in every five mortgage cases over that period was being pursued by Permanent TSB, which is 75% owned by the Minister for Finance of Ireland and is supervised by the Central Bank of Ireland. So-called vulture funds, or non-bank mortgage entities and retail credit firms, were taking one third of cases before the Irish courts over that period.
Dr Kenna warned that Covid-19 could result in a new round of mortgage arrears and that many of the challenges of the last decade could re-emerge: “It is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past and I would recommended that those facing mortgage payment problems post Covid 19 should be able to avail of the State mediation, personal insolvency and new legislation in 2019 which obliges courts to carry out proportionality assessments.”
His research confirmed that women have been particularly vulnerable to the actions of financial entities. “One of the most glaring aspects of this report is the absence of a gender dimension. Women as the majority of single-parents, with responsibility for children and often most relying on State supports, are more heavily impacted by these actions of financial entities. Yet, despite legal obligations on equality, no State agency, including the Central Bank of Ireland, addresses gender in its reports”, explained Dr Kenna.
The research finds that only one quarter of borrowers at risk of losing their homes had any listed legal representation. Some 7% represented themselves. In contrast, financial institutions were almost always legally represented, with just 10 legal firms accounting for 70% of the possession proceedings on behalf of financial entities.
The report confirms that the numbers of possession orders being granted is reducing year on year, since 2015. Continuing the pattern over the years, for every two orders granted, three are not granted by the courts, for a variety of reasons.
Most cases were dealt with by the County Registrar rather than the Judge in Circuit Courts. The highest proportion of cases were located in the South East (19% of cases ) and Midland (18% of cases ) Circuits.
The full report, A Lost Decade – Study on Mortgage Possession Court Lists in Ireland, is available at https://bit.ly/3dRxmLZ.