The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., has today (13th March 2013) detailed how distressed mortgage- holders offered long-term restructuring by their lenders can avail of free, independent financial advice from more than 2,000 accountants nationwide.
The provision of the advice is a key element of the Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service and the Government’s wider response to the mortgage arrears issue.
The Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service is run by the Citizens Information Board under the remit of the Department of Social Protection.
The Service includes the website www.keepingyourhome.ie and the Mortgage Arrears Information Helpline (0761 07 4050), both of which provide information to people who are having difficulties meeting their mortgage repayments.
The Service also includes a Panel of Accountants, established to offer independent financial advice to borrowers who are offered a long-term resolution proposal by their lender, such as a split mortgage, mortgage-to-rent, or long-term interest only. The cost is borne by the lender, who will pay €250 to an accountant of the borrower’s choice from the panel.
Minister Burton said: “The Government has stabilised the banks and now the banks must step up and do their part, by offering sustainable and realistic solutions to people across the country who are in difficulties with their mortgages.
“For too long, the banks have taken a wait-and-see attitude, adding to the huge strain of many home-owners and families. Today the Government is setting down targets which the banks will be expected to meet in order to help these home-owners out of their mortgage distress and ease their fears about the future.
“Now that the Personal Insolvency Service is coming on stream, and the Government is pushing the banks into dealing more rapidly with the mortgage arrears issue, more mortgage-holders will be offered restructurings in the months ahead. So it is important that home-owners are fully aware of the supports and options open to them.
“The Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service should be the first port of call for anybody who is concerned about their mortgage repayments and the possibility of falling into arrears.
“The website www.keepingyourhome.ie provides comprehensive information on the supports available for home-owners facing difficulty with their mortgages.
“The helpline is a further comprehensive and confidential source of information and is particularly aimed at those who have not yet fallen into arrears on their home but fear they may do so,” Minister Burton added.
“I particularly want to emphasise the independent financial advice available to borrowers from the panel of accountants. This is an invaluable support for those who are unsure about the proposals being put forward by their lender or who simply want the advice of an independent expert on same.
“A panel of more than 2,000 accountants, drawn from members of the main accountancy institutes in Ireland, is now in place and already providing this advice.
“I expect the Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service to play a much more extensive role in the coming months and assist tens of thousands of additional mortgage holders as the banks finally face up to the mortgage arrears issue and bring forward sustainable restructuring options for borrowers.”
The website www.keepingyourhome.ie was established in June 2012 and has received over 63,000 hits since then. Maintained by the Citizens Information Board, which comes under the remit of the Department of Social Protection, the website is now receiving circa 2,500 hits a week.
The Mortgage Arrears Information Helpline was established in July 2012 and is also maintained by the Citizens Information Board. Almost 3,000 people have called the helpline to date. The helpline also refers calls to other services such as the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and the Free Legal Aid Centres. The helpline number is 0761 07 4050 and it is contactable from Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.00pm.
The Panel of Accountants is composed of members of the recognised accountancy bodies. As part of the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) – the process which lenders must follow when dealing with arrears and pre-arrears customers – a lender may offer a borrower a long-term resolution proposal such as a split mortgage, trade down forbearance, mortgage-to-rent or long-term interest only. When a lender offers such a restructuring, the lender will recommend that the borrower obtain independent financial advice on the proposal. If the borrower wishes to avail of this option, the lender will pay €250 to an accountant of the borrower’s choice from the panel. The county-by-county panel of more than 2,000 accountants is available on www.keepingyourhome.ie.