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Half of Covid-19 mortgage payment breaks still active

Around half of the almost 86,000 mortgage payment breaks that have been granted to borrowers since they were introduced by lenders in March were still active at the end of last week.

Of the 43,000 of the breaks that had expired, around nine out of every ten of the borrowers concerned has returned to full repayment.

There were 37,000 breaks extended from three to six months, with most of those breaks still active one week ago.

The data was released by the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, as the main banks, non-bank lenders and credit servicing firms prepare to roll out a major information and advertising campaign next week.

It aims to support and help the thousands of people who will be coming off mortgage payment breaks from September.

The campaign includes a new guide, as well as a website, paymentbreak.ie.

The guide recognises that while the situation of some borrowers has improved, other customers continue to be financially affected, and states that they will be fully supported in the next stage.

Lenders want borrowers to engage with them as soon as possible to work out sustainable arrangements for future repayments before their break ends.

They say they have staff who specialise in sensitively helping people with mortgage repayment and arrears difficulties.

The information also lays out the steps in the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process that lenders must follow, including how they should communicate with the borrower, the kind of information they will seek, how the assessment process works and the resolution options available.

These could include restructuring the mortgage into an Alternative Repayment Arrangement (ARA).

This would involve revised repayments on the mortgage for an agreed length of time, but would also be reflected on the borrower’s credit record.

The Central Bank has said there will be no impact on a customer’s credit record if they availed of a payment break due to Covid-19 however.

Those who are in a position to return to full repayments may be able to choose how they repay the money not paid during the break period, according to the guide.

They might be able to pay it over the existing term by increasing repayments, or extend the term, it says.

Lenders have faced criticism for not waiving the interest on the repayments due during the break period.

A three-month payment break was introduced in March to help those who had been financially affected by the Covid-19 crisis to weather the storm and this was later extended to six months.

Lenders have said they will not be offering a third three-month payment break.

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