Facing up to mortgage arrears

FLAC is an Irish human rights organisation which advocates equal access to justice. It also provides limited legal services through the legal advice centres which give it the FLAC acronym.

FLAC is sometimes confused with the system of legal aid in Ireland available for criminal matters and for a very limited range of civil matters. Legal aid is state-funded legal representation; FLAC is a voluntary organisation which provides initial legal guidance but cannot represent people.

While FLAC is an independent organisation and not a quango, its evening advice centres are hosted in Citizens Information centres. They provide a service for all manner of legal issues where legal aid may not be available and where the individual cannot afford legal advice.

A contemporary hot topic at FLAC sessions is personal debt. In most circumstances, there is little a solicitor can do when arrears are properly due and cannot be met. However, there are practical steps that can and should be taken to deal with the matter. To that end, FLAC have published a useful guide to mortgage arrears which explains the terminology and issues and provides suggestions as to how arrears should be handled. Karl Deeter also outlines, in today’s Irish Independent, practical steps which a borrower might arrange with lenders.

Borrowers in difficulty should note that repossession does not follow from one month of difficulty. It is clear from repossessions that have occurred in the past two years that a long period of default usually precedes a repossession order, often coupled with a lack of communication from the borrower and no appearance in court. In fact, judges are showing particular lenience toward self-representing borrowers and offering numerous opportunities to reach some accommodation with their lender. Borrowers in difficulty should not, therefore, ignore correspondence from their lender but should follow the advice mentioned at the earliest opportunity.