herald

Saturday 1 October 2016

Government set to approve new anti-eviction aid scheme

Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will tomorrow seek Government approval for a €15m aid package for families at risk of eviction over mortgage arrears.

The centrepiece of the three-year programme, worth €5m per year, will be an independent legal and financial advice service to help distressed householders identify their best options.

It will also provide for professional help in negotiating the best possible terms. The package is in line with Programme for Government pledges on helping those in mortgage distress to hold on to their homes.

It follows an announcement to increase rent support and comes ahead of the Government's broader housing plan, due to be announced by Housing Minister Simon Coveney later this month.

Package

The package includes changes to court procedures to have repossession cases heard by specialist judges. Repossession cases can also be heard in private if the householder requests, to reduce the sense of ordeal.

There will also be what is described as "a targeted information campaign" to ensure that people in this predicament are aware of all the supports which are available and how to access them.

The Justice Minister first signalled the advice scheme in January and officials say it is now ready to be put into action.

Under this advice scheme, a borrower in serious mortgage arrears and at risk of losing their home can access free advice and help from a solicitor, a personal insolvency practitioner or an accountant, under a voucher system.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) will be the first point of contact for accessing the service.

Distressed

After an initial consultation, MABS can direct the distressed mortgage holder to the professional best fixed to help.

MABS will be able to give a voucher for a borrower to have a face-to-face consultation with a solicitor for legal advice on any aspects of getting a solution into place. A duty solicitor will also be available at the repossession courts and available to help represent a distressed mortgage holder.

Help will also be provided for people to appeal in the courts against a refusal by banks of a proposed solution. Changes to personal insolvency legislation give courts power to impose the proposed solution on lenders, if satisfied that it is fair.

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