Abhaile - free mortgage arrears support
What is the Abhaile scheme?
If you are in serious mortgage arrears on your home, if you are unable to pay your debts, and if your mortgage lender has begun to take legal action, you may be able to access the Abhaile scheme for borrowers in home mortgage arrears. This scheme provides a range of services to help you to deal with your situation, including financial advice, legal advice and insolvency advice.
Abhaile is coordinated by the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. It is operated by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) together with the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI), the Legal Aid Board and the Citizens Information Board.
Panels of qualified and regulated professionals provide services under the Abhaile scheme. MABS also has a network of Dedicated Mortgage Arrears (DMA) advisers to provide independent expert advice to people in difficulty with mortgage arrears.
Who qualifies for Abhaile?
You will be eligible for advice and assistance under the Abhaile scheme if:
- You are insolvent – this means that you are unable to pay your debts in full as they fall due
- You are in mortgage arrears on your home
- You are at risk of losing your home. For example, if your mortgage lender has started repossession proceedings or indicated that they plan to do so, if they have said that they consider you to be non-cooperating, or if they have asked you to consider selling or surrendering your home.
However, even if the above conditions are satisfied, you will not qualify for the Abhaile scheme if your home is not in proportion to your reasonable living accommodation needs, as set out at section 104 of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012.
If your mortgage arrears are for a buy-to-let property, you are not covered by the Abhaile scheme. However, if you are in mortgage arrears on your home, and you also own a buy-to-let, you will qualify if you meet the conditions above.
Eligibility is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. You should contact MABS to check if you qualify for Abhaile.
What services does Abhaile provide?
There are 6 separate advice and support services available under the Abhaile scheme.
Dedicated Mortgage Arrears advisers
There is a network of Dedicated Mortgage Arrears (DMA) advisers based in MABS offices nationwide. DMA advisers provide independent expert advice to people in mortgage arrears and act as the first port of call for applicants to the Abhaile scheme.
Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP) service
The Abhaile scheme has a panel of Personal Insolvency Practitioners (pdf). If you want to explore your options under personal insolvency, MABS can give you a voucher for free advice and help from one of these PIPs. You can choose your PIP from the Abhaile scheme panel, subject to availability.
The voucher gets you to a face-to-face consultation with a PIP. The PIP will:
- Complete a full assessment of your financial situation
- Explain all the available options on how to deal with your mortgage arrears
- Advise you of the best option for how to deal with your mortgage arrears and confirm that advice in writing
- Prepare a Prescribed Financial Statement (PFS) with you. This is a detailed written analysis of your financial situation, as required under the personal insolvency legislation.
If the PIP advises that your best option is personal insolvency, they will help you with the next steps. If they advise that your best option is bankruptcy, they will give you a certificate confirming that you have been advised about your options under personal insolvency. This certificate is required by the bankruptcy court.
You qualify for the Personal Insolvency Court Review Service under the Abhaile scheme if you are insolvent and in mortgage arrears and your creditors have rejected your proposal for a Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA) that included your home. See below for more information on the Personal Insolvency Court Review Service.
If your case involves complicated financial issues, but is not suited to personal insolvency, MABS can give you a voucher for free financial advice from an accountant. The Abhaile scheme has an accountancy panel, listing accountants who participate in the scheme. You can choose your accountant from this panel, subject to availability.
You will first need to work with a MABS adviser to complete the Standard Financial Statement (SFS) that lenders need under the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). The accountant will need a copy of this statement in order to give you financial advice.
The voucher gets you to a face-to-face consultation with the panel accountant. The accountant will:
- Advise you on any financial issues relating to resolution of your mortgage arrears
- Advise you on possible solutions
- Confirm that advice to you in writing
Consultation solicitor service
You may also need to consult a solicitor if your case raises legal issues. For example, your mortgage lender may have written to you, seeking repossession of your home or proposing that you surrender it.
Your financial adviser under the scheme (PIP, MABS adviser or accountant) may recommend that you get this legal advice.
Your financial adviser can apply to MABS for a legal advice voucher on your behalf. You can then choose a solicitor from the Abhaile panel of solicitors.
The legal advice voucher will get you a face-to-face consultation with a solicitor. The consultation solicitor will:
- Assess and explain your legal position
- Advise you on any repossession proceedings and any legal issues relating to your mortgage arrears
- Confirm their legal advice to you in writing
If the lender has already issued repossession proceedings, the consultation solicitor may be able to negotiate on your behalf to settle the proceedings out of court.
It is important to note that the solicitor will need to see any documents that are relevant in your case, particularly your up-to-date financial statement and any written financial advice that you have received under the Scheme.
Duty solicitor service
If you are facing Circuit Court repossession proceedings, you may be able to get some help at Court from the duty solicitor. This is a solicitor from the Abhaile scheme’s solicitor panel who is normally on duty at a Circuit Court on repossession hearing dates. You cannot choose the duty solicitor, as the Legal Aid Board assigns solicitors from the panel to attend on particular dates.
The duty solicitor service is a limited service to provide advice and help to unrepresented borrowers at court. Your consultation solicitor will explain this in more detail.
Normally, you should already have written financial and legal advice under the Scheme, including advice from the consultation solicitor on any repossession proceedings.
If you have not applied in time to get such advice, the duty solicitor may still be able to give you some more limited help, but only if you have already applied to MABS. If your mortgage lender has already issued repossession proceedings against your home, and you have not yet applied for the Scheme, you should contact MABS as soon as possible – see ‘Where to apply’ below.
The duty solicitor may be able to:
- Speak for you in Court, to explain what steps you are taking to deal with your mortgage arrears
- Apply for the proceedings to be adjourned if you are trying to put a solution in place
- Explain to you what is happening in the proceedings
However, they may be helping several Scheme borrowers in court on that day, so you should arrive well in advance of the time shown on the Court papers, and ask for MABS when you arrive. MABS advisers also attend the Circuit Court on repossession hearing dates, to provide information and support. However, they cannot give legal advice or speak for you in Court.
The duty solicitor cannot act as your legal aid solicitor or defend the repossession proceedings on your behalf. This Scheme does not cover legal aid for defending repossession proceedings. If you have a valid legal defence to the repossession and want to apply for legal aid, you should apply for that to the Legal Aid Board.
Personal insolvency court review service
If you have already worked with a PIP and have proposed a Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA) to your creditors, but the creditors have refused your proposal, you can ask the Courts to review it.
The Legal Aid Board can provide you with legal representation when looking for a Court review of your PIA proposal. If the Court agrees that the proposal is overall fair and reasonable, using the criteria set out in section 115A of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012, it can impose the proposal on your creditors.
Your PIP will apply to the Legal Aid Board for legal representation on your behalf. The PIP must certify to the Board that you have reasonable grounds for seeking the court review and that you satisfy the other conditions for review laid down by the Personal Insolvency Acts 2012 to 2015 (pdf).
If the Legal Aid Board is satisfied with the application, it will grant you a Legal Aid Certificate. You and your PIP can then select a solicitor from the Abhaile scheme solicitors’ panel to act on your behalf. (Under the Personal Insolvency Acts, it is your PIP who must apply to Court on your behalf for the review.) The Legal Aid Board will normally also cover the cost of a barrister from the Civil Legal Aid barristers’ panel.
How much do Abhaile services cost?
Abhaile services are provided free of charge to borrowers who qualify for the scheme.
Where to apply
Call the MABS Helpline: 0818 07 2000 (9am - 8pm, Monday - Friday) or contact your local MABS office.