Open Letter to politicians: Immediate action needed in mortgage arrears crisis

16 October 2009

Publication cover - Oct 09 Open letter re debt law reform
Cover image for Oct 09 Open letter re debt law reform

A leading legal rights group is calling on all members of the Oireachtas to take immediate action on behalf of those who cannot meet their mortgage repayments, following a deluge of calls to its telephone helpline from people desperately worried that they risk losing their homes.

In an open letter to TDs and Senators, FLAC states that current government solutions to the mortgage arrears crisis are not enough and urges public representatives to press for action that can have immediate effect for people in debt.

"The range of options needs to include money and legal advice, capacity to remodel and revise existing loans to take account of changed circumstances and reckless lending, moratoriums where appropriate," states FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell in the letter. "All of these changes need to be properly regulated, and the courts must be able to impose terms if parties can't agree. When the negotiations with the banks cease at the end of the NAMA legislation, the chance to develop these remedies may be entirely lost."

The numbers contacting FLAC's telephone information and referral line with debt problems have quadrupled this year and twice as many people are visiting its advice centres with debt issues.

Editors' notes:

1. The full text of the open letter can be accessed online (in PDF format).

2. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all. It campaigns through advocacy, strategic litigation and authoritative analysis to contribute to the eradication of social and economic exclusion.

3. You can read more about FLAC's work on debt law reform online.

4. The latest copy of FLAC's newsletter is available online (in PDF format).

5. The Law Reform Commission published its consultation paper on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement in September (PDF format) (see also FLAC comment).

6. FLAC recommended a complete overhaul of debt enforcement procedures in Ireland and the introduction of debt settlement legislation in a major report in 2003. That was followed in July 2009 by a second in-depth report which explored the debtor's perspective on the enforcement process. The organisation called for a greater range of remedies to assist those who are over-indebted.