Over 5,000 homes repossessed over the last four years, that’s according to legal rights group FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres). Paul Joyce, a senior policy analyst with FLAC, has said that the latest Central Bank data on mortgage arrears confirms that worrying trends continue where family homes are in mortgage arrears.

“With the Quarter 4 figures for 2016, we now have four full years of data on repossession in Ireland. Since 2013, a total of 28,917 new repossession cases have been brought, and 5,306 family homes have been repossessed through court orders or by voluntary surrender during this time,” said Mr Joyce.

Although a substantial number of cases have been struck out or withdrawn, Mr Joyce is concerned that no figures have been provided for the number of repossession cases currently before Circuit Courts. “What is clear is that many such cases have been in the system for some time and the households involved are at serious risk of repossession. FLAC believes that this information is necessary to understand the scale of the issue facing such households and should be made available,” he said.

While overall arrears continue to fall, FLAC is concerned that there is limited progress in tackling longer term arrears cases. For over two years the number of accounts in arrears has decreased from 34,551 to 33,447, however Mr Joyce noted that the average arrears on these accounts increased from €63,611 to €65,895 over the last quarter of 2016.

Significantly, vulture funds are increasing their share of impaired mortgage accounts, particularly those in deep, longer-term arrears. Vulture funds now own over 15% of the accounts in arrears over two years, up from 11% in the previous quarter.

Mr Joyce also expressed concern at the rate of failure in restructures. “Almost 1,400 split mortgage arrangements are failing to meet the terms of the arrangement, and the failure rate for capitalisation of arrears is 22.5%, almost a quarter. This indicates that unrealistic restructuring arrangements are being made, with most lenders continuing to avoid the write-down of the mortgage to a sustainable level.”

In conclusion he said, “FLAC believes lenders must consider all available restructuring options, including mortgage write-down where appropriate, if the aim is to keep as many people in their homes as possible.”