Mortgage arrears dip as court repossessions fall to nine-year low

March 18th, 2019

MORTGAGE arrears figures from the Central Bank show another fall in the overall numbers behind on their payments.

But there is only a small alteration in the numbers in long-term arrears. This is despite the issue persisting for years now.

Court-ordered repossessions are at a nine-year low.

The figures show that overall some 63,246 residential mortgage accounts were in some form of arrears in the last three months of last year.

This was down 1,264 accounts on the previous quarter.

Some 22pc of mortgages in some form of arrears are held by unregulated loan owners, mostly vulture funds.

The Central Bank said the number of accounts that are more than three months behind on payments fell back for the 21st time, with 44,009 accounts falling into this category.

However, the numbers in long-term arrears remain high at 27,551. There was a fall of just 447 in the number of accounts that are classified as in long-term arrears – more than two years.

These homeowners are most at risk of losing their homes.

Other countries do not have statistics for long-term arrears, as homes where there is a mortgage default tend to be repossessed faster than here.

And the data shows a fall off in the numbers getting a payments restructuring deal from their bank.

A total of 111,504 residential mortgage accounts were listed as restructured at the end of December. This was down 2,367 compared with the previous quarter. Just one in three of the accounts that are in arrears have a payments restructuring deal in place.

Some 166 residential properties were repossessed in the three months to the end of the year, up from 161 in the previous quarter. Most of those taken into possession by the lenders were voluntary surrenders, the Central Bank said.

The figures show that there were 28 court-ordered repossessions of primary dwelling houses in the fourth quarter of last year.

This is the lowest quarterly figure since 2010, according to University College Cork economics lecturer Seamus Coffey.

Some 32 residential properties were taken into possession by vulture funds in the quarter.

Lenders sold off 242 properties during the quarter, but still hold 1,500 properties.

Legal proceedings were begun or continued by lenders in a bid to repossess homes on 405 mortgage accounts.

Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation CEO David Hall said the figures needed to be kept in perspective as both Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank recently sold 15,000 loans to vultures funds.

He said this meant repossession proceedings were paused for a period.

“The tsunami is ahead, slowed by judges and county registrars, but ahead it is,” he said.

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