Laois council repossessions forced in the courts

Laois Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming wants answers from County Hall

Conor Ganly

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Conor Ganly

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

Laois council repossessions forced in the courts

Laois County Council has repossessed 43 houses as a result of mortgage arrears between 2010 and September 2017, according to an analysis revealed by Laois TD Sean Fleming.

The Fianna Fáil TD obtained the figures in his capacity as Chairman of the high-powered Dáil Public Accounts Committee.

With the council embarking on a new low interest mortage scheme, Deputy Fleming's figures reveal that the council has gone to court to force previous borrowers to hand over the keys.

Figures in a report reveals that 16 of the houses repossessed were forced on foot of a Court order and the other 27 repossessions were by voluntarily surrender or abandonment.

Repossession on foot of a Court order by Laois County Council is the second highest of all counties in the country (excluding cities Cork, Dublin and Galway). The figures in Kildare are higher.

When it comes to repossessions which are achieved on a voluntarily/surrender basis Laois is again near top of the list in the country.

Overall, outside of the main cities, Laois County Council ranks 4th highest for local authority repossessions.

The figures show that, per capita, the repossessions in Laois by the local authority is at least three times the national average.

The TD said answers are needed.

“This needs to be explained. Everybody accepts that mortgages have to be sustainable and the Council as a mortgage provider/lender must take action when mortgages are not being repaid.

“Over the years people in Laois have been in contact with me about legal proceedings by financial institutions against them in respect of their mortgage arrears. When investigating these matters it became clear to me that Laois County Council was also very active in seeking repossessions,” he said.

Deputy Fleming said he has asked the Department and Laois County Council in the past why the Laois figures are so high. He said there should be a consistent approach across all Local Authorities.

“There has been no clear answer as to why the repossessions are so high in Laois relative to other counties.

“The public needs to know is there a different approach being taken by Laois County Council compared with other Local Authorities.

Deputy Fleming said he raised the issue of local authority mortgage arrears at the Public Accounts Committee in April and received the document from the Department in recent days.

County hall's busiest year in the courts was 2015 when seven properties were repossessed without the householder's agreement.

The busiest year for voluntary handovers was 2012

The figures vary dramaticlly from county to county which could be due to how active some local authorities were in the sale of social and affordable homes during the Celtic Tiger.

In Offaly just four homes were repossessed but none forcibly. Four forcibly repossessed homes was Carlow's total.

This contrasts with Kildare where 48 homes were forcibly repossessed by the council between 2011-2015.

In the other midland counties, Longford had 51 reposessions while Westmeath had 45.

The figures do not detail how many homeowners who agreed to hand over the keys in the absence of a court order had already been subject to legal proceedings.

Laois County Council said it 'noted' Deputy Fleming's statement and that it deals with all those in difficulty with their mortgagees in a “very sympathetic and compassionate way” way.

It said repossession is not straightforward.

“There are many steps prior to repossession and legal proceedings only issue as a last resort and whenever all other options have been explored,” it said.