Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of vacant family homes which have been repossessed in each calendar year since 2008. [8884/16]
104. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of non-vacant family homes repossessed in each calendar year since 2008. [8885/16]
105. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of vacant family homes which were repossessed in each of the years 2008 to 2016 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8943/16]
106. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of non-vacant family homes which were repossessed following evictions in each of the years 2008 to 2016 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8944/16]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 to 106, inclusive, together.
The Deputies will be aware that, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service and I have no role in the matter. Section 4(3) of the 1998 Act provides that the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which includes the provision of information on the courts system. I am informed that the Courts Service does not receive or record information in such a way as to determine if a property is vacant or non-vacant prior to a possession order being made. However, statistics in relation to the number of possession orders made in respect of properties are available on the Courts Service website, www.courts.ie.
It is important to note that the number of civil bills issued does not reflect either the number of orders for possession granted or necessarily equate with repossessions as it is up to the person or company who obtained the order for possession to pursue its execution. Therefore, relative to the number of civil bills issued, a small portion end up as repossessions since in many cases the civil bill gives rise to engagement of the borrower with the bank resulting in either a mortgage restructuring agreement between the bank and borrower or a Personal Insolvency Arrangement entered into under the Personal Insolvency Act.
The Central Bank's quarterly Residential Mortgage Arrears and Repossession Statistics have information which may be of interest to the Deputies and they are available at www.centralbank.ie. The statistics include the number of properties taken into possession by lenders during the relevant quarter including the number which were repossessed on foot of a Court Order.
I would like to refer the Deputies to the range of measures that have already been put in place under the Government's Framework to Strengthen Support of Mortgage Arrears with the aim of providing assistance for people in mortgage arrears, including:
- the enactment on 28 July 2015 of the Personal Insolvency (Amendment) Act 2015, and commencement on 20 November 2015 of the new Court review under section 115A, where banks refuse a personal insolvency proposal on the borrower’s home;
- the development of Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) as the Government’s ‘one-stop shop’ point of information and guidance for homeowners in mortgage arrears, working closely with the Insolvency Service;
- the establishment and staffing of Dedicated Mortgage Arrears MABS centres, in key locations with nationwide coverage, with specialised expertise on mortgage debt; and
- the presence of MABS and the Insolvency Service at courthouses to provide information and ‘signposting’ support for householders issued with repossession proceedings against their homes (operating nationwide since 1 October, after successful pilot in July 2015). This initiative is facilitated by the Courts Service, and is currently provided for all Circuit Court repossession hearings.
In addition, the Government will shortly be putting in place a new Government-funded Scheme to help people who are insolvent, and in mortgage arrears on their home, to access independent expert financial and legal advice. The scheme has 3 components:
(i) Provision of financial advice and assistance.
This involves the provision of advice and assistance from a Personal Insolvency Practitioner, or other financial adviser as appropriate, drawn from panels agreeing to provide specified levels and amounts of services under the Scheme at fixed cost. This will be provided without cost to an insolvent borrower, under a ‘voucher’ system, and will be accessed through MABS, working in conjunction with the Insolvency Service and the accountancy bodies.
(ii) Provision of legal advice and assistance.
This involves the provision of advice and assistance from a solicitor, drawn from panels to be set up by the Legal Aid Board, who agrees to provide specified levels and amounts of services under the Scheme at fixed cost. The scheme will provide assistance and representation for insolvent borrowers in repossession proceedings involving their home, via a panel of ‘duty solicitors’ at repossession hearings, operated by the Legal Aid Board.
Again, this assistance will be provided without cost to an insolvent borrower, under a ‘voucher’ system, and will be accessed through MABS, working in conjunction with the Legal Aid Board.
(iii) Provision of legal aid.
This involves the provision of legal aid for insolvent borrowers seeking the new Court review under section 115A Personal of the Insolvency Acts, where a borrower’s proposal for a Personal Insolvency Arrangement including mortgage arrears on their home is refused by their creditors. This component will be operated by the Legal Aid Board.
The overall objective of the Scheme is to help people who are insolvent (unable to pay their debts in full as they fall due), and are in serious mortgage arrears on their homes, to access independent expert financial and/or legal advice and assistance, which will help them to find the best possible solutions, with the aim of remaining in their homes where possible.