Mayo Fine Gael TD, Michelle Mulherin, this week called for representatives of county registrars to be invited before the Oireachtas Finance Committee to discuss how meaningful engagement by the banks can help resolve the current situation on mortgage arrears.
The Ballina based TD said: “In light of the fact that most orders for possession of the homes of individuals in mortgage arrears in favour of the banks are being made in county registrar's courts around the country, I have asked the chairman of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Liam Twomey TD, to invite in representatives from the county registrars before the committee. County registrars are at the coalface of this situation and have valuable insights about how meaningful engagement by the banks can contribute to resolutions that would mean people would lose their homes only as a last resort.”
She continued: “The sometimes unsatisfactory behaviour of banks in engaging with their customers is often highlighted in the county registrars’ courts. It is very important we hear from them to root out obstacles or practices in the way of tackling the mortgage arrears situation, and allow people the opportunity to keep their homes if at all possible. From talking to many people affected by this it is clear that banks have to make their engagement more customer-centred and friendly. I also suggest, similar to when customers took out the loans in the first place, there should be a relationship manager in local branches to deal with customers in distress and to manage the resolution process from beginning to end.”
She went on to say: “The banks owe a debt to society to assist in resolving the unprecedented financial crisis in this country. Engagement has to be more than ticking boxes. Clearly some people will never be able to afford to repay and in this regard we would need to see a more extensive operation of the mortgage to rent or lease scheme as an option to allow people stay in their homes. Where someone has been paying their mortgage for years but because of hard times fall into arrears there could be provision where they have repaid more than half their mortgage that a stay of a period of five years before the banks could get a possession order would come into effect to allow that individual get back on their feet. I also suggest that the possibility of extending out mortgage terms for 50 to 60 years on family homes be examined, similar to the solution which was found to make our own national debt more manageable.”
Dep Mulherin concluded saying: "We have been living through unprecedented economic times of financial emergency in our country and we must consider even novel ways of allowing people to hold on to their homes. It is not acceptable that business as usual resumes for banks with big profits while many of our citizens and families are at breaking point because of mortgage arrears.”