312. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will report on the possibility of introducing a model of legal support similar to the services provided by the Housing Rights Service in Belfast which would adequately support borrowers facing repossession of their family home as outlined in a recent submission (details supplied). [3735/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I understand that the submission referred to in the Deputy's question has only recently been received in my Department and has not yet been evaluated. I will, of course, respond to the organisation regarding their report in due course.
This Government has put in place a number of legislative provisions regarding protection of the family home in cases where repossession of the property is being sought. Section 2 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013 provides that in repossession proceedings involving a principal private residence, a court may, where it considers it appropriate or on application by a borrower, adjourn the proceedings to enable the parties to consider whether a Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA) under the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 would be a more appropriate alternative to repossession. The intention is to ensure that lending institutions do not resort to repossession proceedings without considering the PIA option under the 2012 Act. The section will not apply to investment or commercial properties. In effect, section 2 provides a new, final, time-limited opportunity for court adjournment of repossession proceedings for the possibility of a Personal Insolvency Arrangement to be examined as an alternative to repossession.
A PIA may be entered into following a court adjournment as indicated above or through the main route set out in the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 via engagement with a Personal Insolvency Practitioner and the Insolvency Service of Ireland. In addition, I should point out that a PIA provides statutory protection to the borrower and may enable them to remain in their home while resolving the debt in a sustainable manner.
This Government has provided an enhanced range of information and guidance services for mortgage holders, including a dedicated information website, a mortgage arrears information and advice helpline and the provision of independent financial advice for mortgage holders who are being presented with long-term mortgage resolution proposals by their lenders. This advice is provided by qualified accountants drawn from members of the main accountancy institutes in Ireland who have agreed to participate and support this independent service. I would encourage people to avail of this service, where appropriate.
I think that it is also proper to reiterate that the Government's advice has always been that borrowers who find themselves in arrears should engage with their lending institution with a view to reaching a solution to their difficulties.