THE NUMBER of court orders for repossession of property fell by 30 per cent last year – and is now just over half of the level from two years ago.
Figures supplied by the Courts Service of Ireland show that the High Court issued 198 possession orders, allowing lenders to take command of an asset to sell it or to recover the value of a loan – which may not have been used to buy the property in the first place.
That’s down from 281 orders made in 2011, and from 327 in the year 2010 – a modern peak.
Repossession orders in the Circuit Court, which deals with cases where the outstanding debts are smaller, stood at 256 last year – down from 353 the previous year.
The drop can probably be explained by the impact of a High Court ruling in 2011, when it was found that a failing in the Land and Conveyancing Act 2009 meant it was not legally possible to repossess a home if the mortgage predated December 2009.
This was because the legislation accidentally created a ‘lacuna’ – a gap in the law – where loans which were made before December 2009 could not be affected by a demand for full payment issued after that date.
The ruling from Justice Elizabeth Dunne made it virtually impossible to repossess many homes bought at the height of the property boom, and has led to repeated calls from the Troika to amend the law so that banks can repossess properties and return to profitability.
The figures do not reference only the court-approved repossessions of family homes, but also investment properties or farms.
Not all household repossessions need to be enforced by a court: most mortgages will have clauses giving the bank the automatic right to foreclose on a property if repayments are not made.