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800 families lose homes to the banks

AT least 800 homes have been handed over to the banks by families who struggled to pay their mortgages, new figures show.

The Department of Finance statistics reveal that the six institutions covered by the bank guarantee own 807 residential properties.

The figures show that 272 homes were handed over as a result of repossession orders while a further 323 were acquired after the owners voluntarily moved out and handed back the keys.

The six institutions, AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS, Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Nationwide and Irish Life and Permanent, took ownership of the remaining 212 after they were abandoned by the owners or a receiver was appointed.

However, the true number of repossessions is likely much higher as foreign banks and sub-prime lenders are not covered by the guarantee and their figures are not included.

Releasing the statistics, Finance Minister Michael Noonan refused to reveal how many repossessed homes were held by each of the six covered banks, claiming it was commercially sensitive.



ARREARS

He said: "The number of individual residential properties presently in the ownership of the covered institutions is 807.

"The information provided is the most up-to-date available from each of the covered institutions, with all data less than one month old."

The minister also said that each of the six institutions informed him that after they take possession of a property it is inspected, with repair or maintenance work carried out before it is put back on the market.

Under the Central Bank's code of conduct on mortgage arrears, a lender is not permitted to go to the courts seeking repossession of a home until the borrower is in arrears for 12 months. They are also compelled to exhaust every option before taking such a route.

Last month, ratings agency, Moody's, estimated that a record 70,000 mortgages were now in arrears.

Fianna Fail finance spokes-man, Michael McGrath, who obtained the statistics, warned more homes have been repossessed. He said a debt settlement and mortgage resolution office was needed.

hnews@herald.ie