Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare North Frank O’Rourke says his party is committed to assisting families who are struggling to cope with long-term mortgage arrears.

Deputy O’Rourke made the comments after Fianna Fáil Finance Spokesperson Michael McGrath TD introduced the Mortgage Arrears (Family Home) Bill 2017 in the Dáil. The Bill aims to assist the 41,000 family mortgage holders who have been in arrears for a year or longer.

Deputy O’Rourke said, “This Bill is designed to help mortgage holders in arrears to secure sustainable solutions and to help them to stay in the family home. It will establish an independent mortgage resolution office which will act as a go between mortgage holders and the banks. This office will have the power to impose a resolution in a mortgage arrears cases and will require the banks to engage constructively with mortgage holders. It will also provide additional protections in cases where the family home is at risk.

“The Bill strengthens the rights of home owners who are in mortgage arrears and gives them the opportunity to avail of independent legal and financial advice as they engage with their mortgage provider. It also rebalances the relationship between those in mortgage arrears and the banks. Currently still penalties can be imposed, including the ultimate loss of the home, on those who do not engage with their lenders when they get into financial trouble. However there are no such issues when banks choose not to engage with the insolvency process. The Bill addresses this issue by removing the bank veto in order to rebalance the scales in favour of the home owner.

“The independent mortgage arrears office that we are seeking to put in place will have an entire suite of solutions available to it when making mortgage resolution orders. These include split mortgage options, interest-only payments and mortgage term extensions. Securing a viable agreement between those in mortgage arrears and the banks is far more desirable than forcing families out of their homes. It will also relieve the pressure that is currently on the courts system,” concluded Deputy O’Rourke.