Private Members Business – Mortgage Restructuring Arrangement Bill 2013

PaulConnaughton-2-150x150

Dáil Éireann 2 October 2013

 

Firstly let me welcome the opportunity to discuss the issue of mortgage restructuring that this Bill presents.  However, I must oppose Deputy Collins’s Bill, which I believed to be flawed in that it fails to take into account the work that will be done in coming months and years under the Personal Insolvency Act of last year.

 

At the core of the current Bill is the forced restructuring of secured credit or mortgage debt with the residual debt classified as unsecured, to be resolved by other debt resolution arrangements.  Minister Shatter last night set out the many legal and moral problems which would result from the Bill, which fails to take into account the debtor’s ability to pay or the equity in the property.

 

I agree with Deputy Collins’s assertion that solutions have to be created for people living under the unbearable burden of unsustainable debt and I believe that to be a priority of this Government.  Debt resolution mechanisms put in place to date include the Personal Insolvency Act, the Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears, and the targets set by the Central Bank for banks to put forward sustainable mortgage solutions.

 

It is to these targets that I now wish to turn.  Firstly, I welcome Minister Shatter’s statement last night that he is concerned that not all banks have adequately engaged with debtors in a manner that is in the interest of the wider community.

I have come across many such cases in clinics across East Galway in recent weeks and months.  Just last week I came across an instance of a woman who was in mortgage difficulty with Ulster Bank.  She was paying her mortgage in recent months and had the receipts to prove it, but on contacting Ulster Bank was told that they had no record of receiving her payments.  The response she was given on the telephone was ‘we can’t see it or we may have lost it’.  Imagine all the unnecessary stress and worry that such a statement resulted in.  Such ham-fisted responses from the banks to people who are genuinely trying to get to grips with their mortgage difficulties are only serving to exacerbate what are already very difficult circumstances.

 

Of course, like many other Deputies, I saw at first hand in my clinics the fear and panic caused by the recent round of over 21,000 letters threatening mortgage holders in arrears, asking them to surrender their house or have it repossessed.  This despicable behaviour was deemed by the banks to be the first round in offering mortgage holders ‘sustainable solutions’.  This Government won’t accept any attempts by banks to weasel away from their obligations in terms of offering sustainable solutions and it’s high time that the banks faced up to the reality that given the crash in house prices, especially outside Dublin and other major cities, debt write-down is appropriate in many cases.

 

This Government’s constant aim is to help people who are in genuine financial distress, to assist them to return to full participation in economic life and press the restart button for their lives.  I know that Deputy Collins aims to alleviate the stress that these mortgage holders are under but I don’t believe that the current Bill is the best method of achieving that resolution.