Majority facing mortgage arrears unaware of supports

Two-thirds of Irish homeowners facing mortgage difficulties do not know that free help and advice is available

A new survey has found that two-thirds of Irish homeowners in mortgage arrears are unaware that free help and advice is available to them.

The same survey found that one-third of those who had experienced being in mortgage arrears would not tell family or friends about their situation.

The figures have been released as the government launches a new information campaign highlighting the benefits of the Abhaile advice service which was launched last year.

The service provides financial advice and negotiation help from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) or from a personal insolvency practitioner and connects people with legal advice and court assistance.

The Chief Executive of the Citizen’s Information Board, Angela Black said many homeowners are unaware of the expanded advice services:

“Two thirds don’t know that there is free expert, legal and financial advice available to them,” she said.

“They know it is there and I think a lot of people have been aware of MABS over many years but MABS has moved into a state - on top of its normal budget advice work - of looking after people with Mortgage arrears.

“As such we have about 30 dedicated mortgage arrears advisors in place for the last year and a half or so.”

A new nationwide radio, poster & online info campaign was launched by the Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald and the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar this afternoon to promote the Abhaile services.

Minister Fitzgerald said the survey results underline a “very real need.”

“The Government is committed to ensuring that homeowners who are struggling with mortgage arrears, and are at risk of losing their homes, can access expert help and advice,” she said.

“That advice can relieve the stress and isolation experienced by people who are in financial distress, break financial problems down to manageable solutions, and most importantly, help people return to solvency.

“I would urge anyone worried about mortgage arrears on their home to contact MABS who are the Government gateway to the range of supports available.”

Over 4,800 vouchers have already been provided for free financial or legal advice and assistance on home mortgage arrears, since the introduction of the Abhaile service in July 2016.

Minister Varadkar said there are “few things in life more distressing than the possibility of seeing your family home repossessed.”

The aim of this campaign is to make sure that this valuable service is promoted to everyone who can benefit,” he said.

The service is expected to cost the exchequer €15 million over 3 years.