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February New Guide Will Help People Facing Unfair Evictions in Ireland
New Guide Will Help People Facing Unfair Evictions in Ireland
- NUI Galway Research Centre publishes Guide on EU Consumer and Human Rights for people in mortgage distress
- Irish courts are not fully applying EU consumer and human right laws that could prevent unfair evictions
The Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway has published a new, user-friendly guide that could help thousands of Irish families in mortgage distress, and facing unfair evictions to understand and advocate for their rights, using vital EU consumer and human rights law.
‘Your EU Consumer and Human Rights: A Guide for People in Mortgage Distress in Ireland’, published jointly with Open Society Foundations’ Abusive Lending Practices Project, is also essential reading for people improperly denied tracker mortgages, or those who have been given incorrect interest calculations.
A decade after the crash, and with one in 10 mortgages in arrears, Ireland continues to have the highest level of mortgage defaults in the world. Central Bank of Ireland statistics at September 2017 show that over 72,000 mortgages are in arrears. A massive 44% (over 31,000) of these are in arrears for over two years, putting them at far greater risk of mortgage repossession.
The laws outlined in the publication oblige Irish courts to assess the fairness of mortgage terms under the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive. They should also assess the human rights impact of an eviction on all occupants in the home, including children, older people and people with disabilities, under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
These EU requirements are not new. However, to date, they are not being fully applied in Irish courts, according to the Irish and international legal experts behind the guide.
Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, and one of the authors of the guide, says: “Our guide sets out simply and clearly how existing EU law should be routinely applied to determine, firstly, whether a mortgage contract term is fair and, secondly, whether a possession or eviction notice is a proportional response to any breach of a mortgage term. By applying these EU laws, Irish courts and lawyers can really assist their clients and vulnerable defendants.”
The authors have stressed that the guide is for information purposes only. It does not provide legal advice, and is not a substitute for consulting a lawyer. They suggest, within the guide, that people share it with their solicitors. They also acknowledge, however, that a high number of people facing possession are unrepresented, due to the shortage of free and low cost legal services.
In tandem with the publication of the guide, a group of facilitators are being trained by Community Action Network (CAN), an NGO with extensive housing rights expertise. The facilitators will be available to help promote the guide to people in mortgage distress and to service agencies who may be working with them. They will help people understand the information in the guide, but will not provide legal advice or representation.
The guide also contains practical advice on how to find a solicitor, an outline to the Abhaile Scheme and Personal Insolvency Arrangements, and other vital resources for people in mortgage distress. Finally, it contains sample template pleadings, for information purposes only.
The guide has been created as part of the Open Society Foundations’ Abusive Lending Practices Project, in conjunction with the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, and a group of Irish lawyers and advocates.
According to Marguerite Angelari, Senior Legal Officer with Open Society Justice Initiative and the lead author of the guide: “The Open Society Foundations launched the Abusive Lending Practices Project in 2015 out of concern for the substantial number of people in Europe suffering under debt burdens that threaten their ability to satisfy their basic needs. The widespread practice of repossessing people’s homes without consideration of any wrongdoing on the part of the lender and the impact of the loss of the home on the household as required by EU law is a violation of their human rights.”
While Ireland is the first EU country where the guide is being launched, its contents are relevant, and will be available, to distressed borrowers throughout Europe
The Open Society Foundations’ mission is to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.
The guide is available to download from 7am on Thursday, 1 February, from: https://www.nuigalway.ie/chlrp/news/.