180. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of possession orders made on principal dwelling households by the High Court and the Circuit Court in each of the years 2009 to 2017 and to date in 2018, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10950/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy should note that under section 101 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, all applications for repossession in cases of housing loan mortgages created after 1 December 2009 must be made in the Circuit Court.  In addition, under section 3 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013, with effect from 31 July 2013, all applications for repossession in cases of mortgages created before 1 December 2009 on private residences or family homes must also be made in the Circuit Court.
The following table shows the numbers of Possession Orders granted in the Circuit Courts in the relevant years.  The Deputy will note that it is not possible to provide a breakdown of possession orders between PDH and other repossessions in 2009, 2010 and 2011 as such records were not kept by the Courts Service at that  time. 
Circuit Court Statistics – Possession Orders Granted.

Year PDH Other Total
2009     304
2010     306
2011     353
2012 229 29 258
2013 330 33 363
2014 798 265 1,063
2015 919 365 1,284
2016 848 240 1,088
2017 (to end Q3) 557 97 654
As can be seen from these statistics, the number of Possession Orders granted in respect of principal dwelling houses reached a peak in 2015 but has shown a downward trend since then.  In 2017, to end Quarter 3, the average number of possession orders granted in respect of principal dwelling houses is 62 per month.  This is lower than the overall monthly average in both 2016 (71) and 2015 (77).
For the sake of completeness, I would inform the Deputy that, in relation to the number of Civil Bills for Possession issued - that is new repossession cases launched by lenders - in respect of principal dwelling houses, the statistics show that these reached a peak in 2014 when 7,313 Civil Bills were issued (a monthly average of 609).  Significant reductions in this number were seen in both 2015 (which had an monthly average of 341) and 2016 (which had a monthly average of 269).  The latest figures available on this issue indicates that in 2017 (to end Q3) a total of 1,949 Civil Bills for Possession were issued in respect of principal dwelling houses - a monthly average of 217.  There is a downward trend in the numbers of Civil Bills for Possession issued.  
High Court Statistics
In relation to High Court statistics, the attached table shows the overall number of Possession Orders granted in the High Court from 2009 to 2016.  This figure is in respect of all repossessions ordered by the High Court, including repossessions relating to commercial/business premises.  I have asked the Courts Service to provide information in relation to the breakdown of these Orders between PDH and other repossessions.  This information is being compiled and I will forward them to the Deputy when they come to hand.  
High Court Statistics – Possession Orders Granted
Year Possession Orders granted
2009 293
2010 326
2011 281
2012 198
2013 108
2014 190
2015 113
2016 47

This Government's strategy in relation to repossessions is to try to support people in mortgage difficulty and try as far as possible to keep people in their homes.  A number of legislative and other supports have been put in place to assist people in this area.
The Personal Insolvency Act 2012 has modernised the regime for personal insolvency and brought Ireland in line with international best practice by providing for a range of debt resolution options within a statutory framework which balances the rights of creditors and debtors. The Personal Insolvency Arrangement, in particular, is an innovative solution that seeks to restructure or settle secured debt. Other important elements of this framework include the statutory protections regarding the debtor's reasonable living expenses and their home.  
Since its establishment in 2013, the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) has returned over 6,000 debtors to solvency with over 2,000 of those cases being Personal Insolvency Arrangements (PIAs) which deal with mortgage debt. In over 90% of these PIA cases, debtors have been able to stay in their homes. This is a significant achievement given that many cases involved arrears exceeding 720 days.  
In addition, the solutions introduced in the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 have served as a catalyst for over 120,000 informal agreements between debtors and creditors, as reported by the Central Bank of Ireland. Debtors now have realistic alternative options available to them through the ISI if negotiations break down.  
The Government has introduced a number of amendments and supports, since 2012, to ensure the success of the solutions provided by the personal insolvency legislation. These include the section 115A court review process and the Abhaile Mortgage Arrears Resolution Service.  
The section 115A court review process permits a debtor to ask the Court to review and assess the reasonableness of a rejected PIA and, where satisfied as to its reasonableness, make an order confirming the PIA proposal.  This removes the so-called “Bank Veto”.  
The Government agreed late last year to bring forward its own proposals in a Courts and Land and Conveyancing Bill derived from a Private Member's Bill proposed by the then Deputy 'Boxer' Moran.  This Bill is on the present legislative programme for publication during the current session.
Another important enhancement is Abhaile, the Government’s national Mortgage Arrears Resolution Service. This was introduced in 2016 to ensure that people who are in danger of losing their home have access to free professional advice, including advice from a personal insolvency practitioner. In addition to detailed financial advice, Abhaile offers legal advice to homeowners in mortgage arrears with the aim of allowing them to find a solution to their arrears and to stay in their homes where possible.
Up to 5 March, 2018, Abhaile had provided 8,389 vouchers for free financial advice and help from a personal insolvency practitioner.  In addition, 2,308 borrowers had been issued consultation solicitor vouchers under the scheme. This voucher entitles a person to a free legal advice consultation with a solicitor.  The scheme also provides for funding by the Legal Aid Board of these applications for review to the Circuit Court where a personal insolvency arrangement has been voted down by creditors.  Up to 23 February 2018, legal aid had been approved under the Abhaile scheme for 607 such reviews.
In 2017, the Government introduced a series of actions and amendments that will make Mortgage to Rent (MTR) quicker, more transparent, easier to navigate for borrowers and ultimately, more accessible to more households in mortgage distress. Crucially, the changes will also dramatically increase the numbers of households availing of the scheme
My Department is also finalising a review of the operation of the Personal Insolvency Acts. The review is taking place under section 141 of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012, which requires the Minister for Justice and Equality (in consultation with the Minister for Finance) to review the operation of Part 3 of the 2012 Act, and responds to a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government.
Submissions made by stakeholders via a public consultation on the operation of Part Three of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 contain a range of recommendations to enhance the process and to support increased engagement with the personal insolvency system. These submissions are being analysed and considered by my Department as part of the review along with recent developments in personal insolvency, including recent High Court judgments related to the process. I look forward to bringing proposals to Government in the coming months to address the conclusions of the review.