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Housing Crisis

High Court Master says 'serious errors' in bank court papers are not spotted in Circuit Court

Edmund Honohan said this has led to situations where banks are being granted possession orders for property or land that is not even mortgaged.

THE MASTER OF the High Court has said errors in banks’ court papers when they are seeking possession orders are going unnoticed in the Circuit Court because of the volume of cases.

Speaking in the latest episode of the Reboot Republic podcast, Honohan spoke of his “frustration” watching lay litigants (people who have no legal counsel and who represent themselves) trying to defend their cases when they “don’t know their rights”.

Honohan said judges often start with the presumption that if a homeowner is before the courts and the bank is looking for a possession order, “the bank is probably right”.

“It’s an uphill battle for the defendant to argue to the contrary,” he said. “You also have the situation where paperwork for the case contains serious errors.

I had one case where the mortgage deed comprised three acres and they were looking for an order for possession for ten acres. Now, of course, nobody reads the papers because the pressure of work in the Circuit Court is so great. The process of actually double checking the papers is often left to the defendant to point that out.

Honohan wrote a bill that was introduced to the Dáil by Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness before the summer recess. He said the Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill 2018 brings together pieces of Irish and European law in the one place, which he said would reinforce the principles in these laws.

He said most people who come before him in repossession cases had “genuine reasons” for not being able to pay their mortgages. Honohan said they were waiting for legislation and schemes, like the Insolvency Act and Mortgage to Rent, which the government said would help them. These measures have not been enough, however, he said. 

“It’s government policy to keep people in their homes but they have never managed to enact a policy which did that. This bill does that, it causes the owners of the loans [like vulture funds] to have to come to court and put all their cards on the table.”

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