Offaly homeowners in mortgage arrears urged to contact MABS
With hundreds of mortgage holders being brought to court in [re]possession cases in Offaly, the service provided by the local Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) has never been more important.
Offaly MABS Co-Ordinator, Mary Errity, has urged those in arrears to avail of the advice on offer and to engage with their financial institution.
Various options can be explored. One of these options is the Government Mortgage to Rent (MTR) initiative. MTR lets homeowners in mortgage difficulty remain in their home by renting it as a social housing tenant. A number of clients are going through the mortgage to rent process with the help of MABS. "Advisers will assist you in progressing your MTR application with your lender. They can act on your behalf and offer support and advice throughout the process."
To apply for Mortgage to Rent, borrowers must be eligible for social housing support from the County Council, the property must be in negative equity and the borrower must not be over accommodated.
In Offaly the value of the house is capped at €280,000 and there are income limits depending on family size.
Successful applicants surrender their house to the bank or financial institution and they sell it on to a housing association. There may be an opportunity to buy back the property from the housing association or local authority if the situation of the tenant improves after five years.
The scheme is overseen and administered by the Housing Agency.
But MTR is just one option, Ms Errity said, stressing that borrowers should make contact with MABS no matter how difficult their situation appears to be.
"I urge people to make that first move and pick up the phone. Ring us, the national Helpline 0761 07 2000 is open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm. We can arrange an appointment to discuss your personal situation". Clients will be signposted to all the available supports.
MABS staff are conscious of the anxiety and stress that borrowers are under, added Ms Errity. Our Dedicated Mortgage Arrears advisers available through the Abhaile Scheme are fully aware of all the free financial and legal advice that is available. The aim of Abhaile is to keep people wherever possible in their own homes.
"When people come in, it might be the first time they have spoken to anybody about their financial difficulties. They are often nervous and afraid but once they realise that MABS is on their side and want the best solution for them you can see the relief on their face," she said.
Even if your case has got as far as the courts MABS through the Abhaile scheme can provide assistance to those coming before the County Registrar and the Circuit Court Judge.
There were nearly 130 repossession cases on the County Registrar's call-over list last month at Tullamore Courthouse and some of these borrowers were assisted by a Duty Solicitor, a service available under the Government funded Abhaile scheme.
The duty solicitor service provided by the Legal Aid Board as part of Abhaile provides free advice and help to unrepresented borrowers at court. "The Duty Solicitor may be able to speak for you in Court, to explain what steps you are taking to try and deal with your mortgage arrears, and may be able to apply for the proceedings to be adjourned if you are trying to put a solution in place", said Ms Errity.
She added: "Normally the Duty Solicitor service does not extend to the call-over list but we had looked for that support specifically for Offaly because there is such a large number of borrowers requiring support."
On the day the court is sitting, MABS provides a Court Mentor service under the Abhaile Scheme. The Scheme also entitles the borrower to a voucher for €500 to avail of advice from a Personal Insolvency Practitioner if required and/or legal advice.
MABS advisers attend the court in advance of the start time so if a client (or non-client) has any questions or wants the Duty Solicitor to speak on their behalf they can meet privately before the court session starts", Ms Errity explained.
She described the situations of many borrowers as heartbreaking but said that those who engage with MABS through the Abhaile scheme or their lender will find the County Registrar and the Judge are likely to be more sympathetic.
The MABS service is free, independent, confidential and non-judgmental. The local Offaly MABS is situated in the Bridge Centre and can be contacted on 0761 07 2710, 9.30am to 5.00pm Mon - Fri In addition to the MABS office in Tullamore, the service has outreach centres in Birr (currently Monday afternoon) and Edenderry (currently Wednesday afternoon) which are available by appointment one afternoon each week. Appointments can be made by calling the MABS National Helpline at 0761 07 2700 or by contacting Offaly MABS directly.
For more information on the Mortgage to Rent Scheme visit mortgagetorent.ie or contact the National MABS Helpline on 0761 07 2000 Monday - Friday 9 am to 8 pm or log on to mabs.ie/abhaile to find out more.