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Mortgage crisis: Four family homes a day being repossessed

More than four family homes are being repossessed every day, stark figures from the Central Bank have revealed.

Figures covering three months to the end of September showed 421 struggling homeowners either volunteered or were forced to hand over the keys to the properties.

On top of that, another 288 houses or apartments owned by landlords were taken by banks and finance houses.

The latest report on the mortgage arrears crisis from the Central Bank showed the level of repossessions is about the same as it was at the start of the year with more than four homes on average being taken from borrowers every day.

The Central Bank said 34,551 mortgages on family homes were behind with repayments by two years or more but this number has been dropping consistently since the middle of last year.

There is almost 2.2 billion euro of arrears on these loans, the report stated.

Another 14,518 properties which are in the buy-to-let sector are also more than two years behind in repayments with more than 1.5 billion euro of unpaid arrears.

Data from the past six years showed the Irish banks have repossessed more than 7,500 homes and apartments from the year before they were bailed out in 2010 until the end of September this year.

The Central Bank also revealed that "non-bank entities" now control 45,638 mortgages in Ireland and almost 15,000 of those are held by unregulated loan owners such as foreign vulture funds.

Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the Government got advice from the Central Bank six weeks ago on how to further safeguard struggling homeowners from banks and vulture funds.

"This crisis cannot be wished away. It quite rightly featured prominently in the Programme for Government but now, as another winter is upon us, it is time to see what change the 13 families a day receiving a legal letter from the banks can expect," he said.

"It is time for the Government to act and to act decisively in protecting the family home."

Mr Doherty called on Finance Minister Michael Noonan to publish the report.

According to the data from the Central Bank, unregulated finance houses like foreign vulture funds now control about 3.2 billion euro worth of mortgages in Ireland - 1.9 billion euro of which are family homes and 1.3 billion euro of which are rental properties.

Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said arrears on family home mortgages held by sub-prime lenders and unregulated firms were alarming.

He said he feared for borrowers struggling to meet repayments to finance houses.

" These funds are generally not directly regulated by the Central Bank," he said. "The borrower's contact is with an intermediary who does not make the final decision regarding a restructure proposal or whether to commence repossession proceedings.

"The Government needs to move promptly to bring these funds fully within the ambit of regulation and to ensure that a broad suite of restructure options are put in place."

Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said continued repossessions in the buy-to-let sector puts thousands of tenants at risk and 40 children in 20 families suffer that fate every month.

The charity has called for a ban on banks and vulture funds from evicting people when landlords are forced to hand over properties.

"It is vital we always remember that behind every one of these evictions that we are talking about men, women and children who are being forced out of their home - through no fault of their own - and becoming homeless. This is wrong and totally unacceptable," Mr Allen said.

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