Better bank systems needed to tackle arrears issue, says Mulherin

Deputy Michelle Mulherin says more information is needed on the level of engagement from banks with people in mortgage arrears to get a full picture of the issue.

She has requested that county registrars, who deal with orders for possession of the homes of individuals in arrears, be invited to speak on the matter at the Joint Oireachtas Committee of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.

Deputy Mulherin said she wants the committee to hear in general from the registrars how meaningful engagement is on the part of the banks towards finding a resolution for people facing the loss of a family home, as evidenced in court cases.

Speaking on mortgage arrears in the Dáil last week, Deputy Mulherin said some progress is being made and the number of private dwelling home mortgage accounts in arrears declined by over 25,000 during 2014 with more than 115,000 restructuring agreements reached.

“However without a doubt there are serious problems being encountered by homeowners who are in mortgage arrears in dealing with banks towards [finding] a resolution,” said Deputy Mulherin.

“This is despite reassurances being given by those very banks to the Taoiseach and Government. The individual stories of the homeowners trying to deal with the banks as we speak is far from satisfactory, and brings into doubt how meaningful and helpful engagement is on the part of the banks.”

Deputy Mulherin explained that banks must engage meaningfully with people and provide proof of that in court in cases involving possession orders.

However she said these proofs are often not in order and cases are adjourned repeatedly.

“Upon investigation by the county registrar it has been found all too often that the homeowner complains of ringing the bank in question again and again to no avail, dealing with a different agent a lot of the time with no real engagement other than being asked to send in their proposals.

“The facilities for dealing with mortgage arrears in these cases sound more like a call centre service than any proper interface with the individuals trying to deal with their mortgage arrears problem.”

Deputy Mulherin said banks must be taken to task for this at least as it calls into question how meaningful bank engagement is.

“The banking system was rescued and the cost of that was heaped on the tax payers of this country,” she pointed out.

“The banks owe a debt to society to assist towards resolving the unprecedented financial crisis the country and individual citizens are trying to sort out. Banks’ engagement has to be more than ticking boxes. It is not acceptable that business as usual resumes for banks with big profits while so many of our citizens and families are at breaking point because of mortgage arrears.

“I believe Government has to press deeper to ensure that banks have proper meaningful systems in place to deal with people in mortgage arrears.”

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