Parliamentary Question: Finance
To ask the Minister for Finance the procedures and protocols in place to assist struggling mortgage holders to avoid home repossession; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Simon Harris.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 19th April, 2011.
Minister for Finance ( Mr Noonan)
The Deputy will be aware that the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt produced two Reports, an Interim Report published in July 2010 and a Final Report published in November 2010. All of the Expert Group’s recommendations are listed in Chapter 2 of the Final Report. They can be accessed at www.finance.gov.ie .
Since the publication of the Reports, the Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) has been revised by the Central Bank to reflect many of the recommendations of the Expert Group, including key recommendations relating to the introduction by all regulated lenders of a standardised Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). The most significant changes in the revised CCMA include:
- Lenders are prohibited from moving borrowers in arrears off existing tracker mortgages;
- Borrowers in arrears who co-operate with the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) are not charged penalty interest charges;
- Harassment of borrowers through unsolicited communications is outlawed;
- Borrowers in financial difficulties, but not in arrears, are allowed to come under the MARP; and
- When a lender is determining the 12 month period it must wait before applying to the courts to commence legal action, it must exclude any time period during which a borrower is complying with the terms of an alternative repayment arrangement, making an appeal to the internal appeals Board or making a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman under the CCMA.
The revised CCMA was published on 6 December 2010 and came into effect on 1 January 2011. The revised CCMA can be accessed at www.centralbank.ie. Lenders are required to comply with the CCMA as a matter of law but have been given a period of six months grace ending on 30 June 2011 to put in place the requisite systems and training of staff necessary to support the implementation of the MARP. In addition, the Central Bank has also written to lenders to issue directions under Section 149 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 which will mean that lenders cannot impose arrears charges or penalty interest on borrowers who are co-operating with the MARP.
Lenders representing the majority of the market have already indicated their willingness to implement the Expert Group’s proposals for a Deferred Interest Scheme (DIS) or a variation of it. The Lenders that thus far have notified the Central Bank of their intention to implement the recommendation of a DIS, as set out in the final report of the Expert Group, are Allied Irish Banks, AIB Mortgage Bank, Bank of Ireland, ICS Building Society, EBS, Haven Mortgages, Irish Nationwide Building Society, Permanent TSB, Springboard Mortgages and Start Mortgages. The DIS is to apply to those homeowners unable to pay full interest on their mortgages but able to pay at least 66% and will be based on a full assessment of a borrowers circumstances. While the DIS is voluntary for all lenders, those who have signed up in support of the scheme will be monitored by the Central Bank to ensure compliance.
The Deputy will also be aware of the existing importance of the Mortgage Interest Supplement (MIS) Scheme and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) in assisting consumers who have fallen into arrears or who are experiencing difficulties servicing their mortgage repayments. The MIS Scheme currently supports approximately 18,000 mortgage-holders. The scheme has grown very substantially since 2007 when approximately 4,000 mortgage-holders were MIS recipients. MABS provides a national, free, confidential and independent service operating from 53 offices nationwide. Its resources have been increased in recent times and in 2010 it provided services to approximately 21,000 clients while it also assisted many thousands of citizens through its telephone helpline service.