Scott critical of Dickensian’ foreclosures
Hundreds of people face losing their homes through repossession by banks, a government backbencher warned last night.
Michael Scott, a lawyer and Sandys North MP, said there should be “an assessment of how many distressed properties exist in our country”.
Mr Scott was speaking after David Burt, the Premier, vowed on Monday night at a PLP delegates conference to set up a government watchdog for house repossessions.
Mr Burt delivered the Progressive Labour Party’s agenda for the next year of legislation at the opening night of the conference. The Premier highlighted the plight of a 72-year-old woman made homeless after her house was repossessed.
Mr Scott, who is representing the woman, said he was unable to comment on the specifics of the case as it was still before the courts.
But he added: “The rules in the courts for foreclosure are Dickensian, and therefore I will welcome the Premier’s promised reforms.”
And he promised “rules that will require alternative actions if a foreclosure will make homeowners homeless”.
Mr Burt told the audience at St Paul AME Centennial Hall that the case, which involved a PLP member, had been brought to his attention by Mr Scott earlier this year.
Banks bore the brunt of criticism in Mr Burt’s speech — although Mr Scott said non-traditional lenders, including insurance companies, were also involved in real estate finance.
Nick Kempe, a senator and the shadow finance minister and who was in the audience for the speech, said it was “long on rhetoric and short on detail”.
Mr Kempe added: “It’s great to ensure that foreclosure is not abused — that’s worthy of merit.
“You don’t want to hear those stories from back in the day of lawyers and banks trying to get homes from people on the cheap.
“But there’s a difference between that and Government telling banks they can’t foreclose when people have been wholly unable to service their debts.”
Mr Kempe questioned what would happen if the Government committee told a bank that could not foreclose on a home put up as collateral against a loan.
He asked: “Is the Government saying they would take over the shortfall in payments if foreclosure is not an option for banks?”
Mr Kempe said: “The unintended consequence could be that banks stop lending to certain individuals.”
He added he would wait until Parliament reconvened next month to hear more details on the Government’s plans.
A spokeswoman for HSBC said the bank’s policy was to work with customers with financial problems to “find the most appropriate solution”.
She added: “We have found that these early discussions provide opportunities for us to work on all available options, and we have a strong record of supporting our clients through difficult periods.”
The spokeswoman said the number of foreclosures in Bermuda was “low and foreclosures are only initiated as a last result”.
She added: “When they do occur, all foreclosures are brought before the courts for proper court approval as required by the law.”
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