New Rules on Home Repossessions
Streamlined rules have been introduced to the Circuit Court to allow for swifter repossession of properties. Statutory Instrument 264 of 2009 was signed into law by the Minister for Justice in July 2009. It gives the County Registrar in the Circuit Court the power to order repossession of a property where the borrower does not file any defence to the case. Previously such orders could only be granted by a Judge and after a number of steps had been taken by the lender.
Under the new system a lender seeking repossession of a property can issue a Civil Bill which includes a special indorsement of claim setting out the circumstances of the case. That Civil Bill when issued from the Circuit Court office will contain a return date and a borrower must indicate they wish to defend the claim on that return date by filling a Notice of Intention to Defend within ten days of receipt of the Civil Bill. If no Notice of Intention to Defend the proceedings is filed by the borrower then on the return date the County Registrar may at his/her discretion make an order for repossession of the property without the case ever being heard before a Judge or he can also extend the time limits available to the borrower.
If a Notice of Intention to Defend is filed then the County Registrar may send the case for hearing before a Judge or issue directions for filing of affidavits setting out the position of both parties.
The new regulations significantly speed up the procedures taken by lenders to repossess property and have obvious significance for homeowners who are in default of their mortgage repayments. The general idea behind the rules is to reduce the costs involved in repossessions for both parties and the reliance on more expensive forms of litigation. The format of the new Civil Bill also allows for greater information to be provided to borrowers on why they are being taken to court. There is however a concern that homeowners who do not read carefully any documents received or treat such documents with sufficient concern might neglect to deal with the proceedings in time and find that an order for repossession has already issued.