Focus Ireland Calls For Govt Action To Protect Irish Homes As Banks Gear Up To Sell Millions Of Property To Vulture Funds

Focus Ireland warned today that thousands more Irish homes are at risk as banks are set to sell many millions of Euros-worth of property to international vulture funds.

The charity stressed that the Government steps so far to restrict vulture funds don’t go far enough and much stronger measures are essential to avoid a flood of evictions coming down the tracks.

Central Bank figures show that 47,000 Irish homes are currently owned by vulture funds. Meanwhile, Ulster Bank is reported to be offloading €875 million of distressed buy-to-let and home mortgages as AIB is said to be gearing up to sell part of a €1.9 Billion portfolio of buy-to-let mortgages in serious arrears.
The Government is taking some steps on this issue as the Cabinet has approved Housing Minister Simon Coveney’s plans to change the law to help protect people whose homes are sold off to Vulture funds. The change will mean that if an apartment block of more than 20 homes is sold, then new owners will not be able to evict tenants all in one go  or hike up the rent.  These proposals were prompted by the case of 100 families in Dublin when a Vulture fund bought an apartment block in Tyrrelstown and then tried to evict all these families.

Focus Ireland Advocacy Manager Focus Ireland Roughan Mac Namara said: “While we welcome the planned change to the law, it does not go far enough. Many homes will still be at risk. It appears they’ll still be able to try to evict tenants in batches but not all in one go. Meanwhile, Families or individuals living in single rented homes or apartment blocks consisting of less than 20 homes will not be protected and these families will still be at the mercy of the Vultures funds.  For these people whether you rent or own your home, the vulture funds can strip you of your rights.”
“We want protection for all tenants so that sale of the property they are renting doesn’t mean they lose their home or have the rent hiked up. This right already exists in many other countries, so why is it not in place here in Ireland? We also want action to restrict the sale of residential debt to international funds.”

Meanwhile, Vulture funds – which have spent billions buying so-called “toxic” loans in Ireland – have paid as little as €250 tax each here by using loopholes to reduce their tax bills.  Following widespread media coverage and political outcry on this issue Finance Minister Michael Noonan moved to close off these loopholes for so-called section 110 companies.  However, some experts have already warned that large accounting and legal firms have told their vulture fund clients how to get around the Section 110 amendment, which was recently introduced to tackle tax avoidance.

Mr. MacNamara added: “It is also highly worrying that while on one hand we have the Minister claiming he has now shut off tax loops holes for vultures through his Section 110 Amendment but on the other we have reports that leading accounting and legal firms have told their vulture fund clients how to bypass the Section 110 amendment.  We need assurances from the Government and Minister that these loopholes are firmly shut and can no longer be exploited by vulture funds to dodge tax.”

Focus Ireland ran a campaign in recent months calling for Government legislation to protect homeowners and tenants in buy-to-let properties from the threat posed by vulture funds.  The “Vulture Shock” campaign warned action is needed to protect people’s homes from international investment funds that buy distressed properties to sell for a quick profit. Over 10,000 people signed up to the Focus Ireland petition calling for the Government to strengthen legislation to protect homeowners and tenants in buy-to-let properties from the threat posed by vulture funds. Focus Ireland is set to deliver the petition to the Government tomorrow to mark World Homelessness Day (October 10th) and as the charity once more calls for tougher action by the Government on vulture funds.

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