CLARE MABS is currently assisting more than 100 clients in late-state mortgage arrears, with a further 110 mortgage arrears clients also being helped by the money advice service in the county.
Details of the supports MABS is offering throughout Clare was revealed at a presentation to Clare County Council’s Social Development Strategic Policy Committee.
In relation to late-stage mortgage arrears, the results have included five cases where restructuring or long-term solutions have been approved; 11 cases in trial test periods, where, if successful, a long-term arrangement will be considered by the lender; 12 cases awaiting decisions and 10 clients referred for personal insolvency arrangements.
The meeting heard that MABS runs a court mentor scheme, providing advice and support with an increase in the numbers of clients availing of the service in recent years.
The Abhaile court mentor scheme sees MABS representatives attend local circuit court mortgage possession case hearings. An information stand is positioned in the court lobby, giving independent advice.
There is also an opportunity for MABS representatives to accompany existing clients into court and to explain the process. Clients are also introduced to a duty solicitor, who can represent them during court proceedings.
“People should not have to face a court appearance or deal with the threat of losing their home, without appropriate advice and support,” said Ms Dolan.
She said that, in November 2015, there were 141 mortgage repossession cases listed for hearing, with four of those existing MABS clients.
Meanwhile, in September 2017, there were 113 mortgage repossession cases listed for hearing in Clare; of these, 36, or 32%, were existing MABS clients.
Statistics outlined at the meeting by Carmel Dolan, a dedicated mortgage arrears advisor with Clare MABS, showed that, in many cases, borrowers are not represented in court repossession cases.
In July 2017, there were 106 mortgage repossession cases listed for hearing. Of those, 25 were existing MABS clients. Nineteen clients attended court, 10 of these were existing clients. There were 16 solicitors representing borrowers.
Approximately 60% of the borrowers listed for hearing were unrepresented in court.
“A lot of people feel it is gone too far, but it is never too late to seek help,” said Ms Dolan.
The meeting also heard that legal bills totalling €37,000 have been paid using the support of MABS.
Under the Abhaile scheme, vouchers of €500 are paid to cover legal advice and personal insolvency costs.
Ms Dolan explained, “The voucher pays for the appointment with a solicitor for legal advice or a personal insolvency practioner for advice on insolvency options. The client can choose from a panel of solicitors and PIPs available locally.”
Since the scheme was introduced in 2016, Clare MABS has issued 74 vouchers, totalling €37,000. The meeting also heard that there can be a gap of 11 months between a demand letter being issued and a case being heard on the repossession list in court.
Speaking following the presentation, Councillor Tom McNamara spoke of the difficulties facing some homeowners in mortgage arrears, who are unable to sell their property, due to the ‘locals only’ planning policy.
He suggested that this clause should not apply to those in mortgage difficulties. Director of services Liam Conneally said representations could be made in support of this to the planning authority. “People in bankruptcy situations who will lose their home, there should be some respite from a planning policy perspective,” he said.
By Jessica Quinn