Cyprus Mail

Thousands want to take part in Estia home-loan relief scheme

Bank of Cyprus is expected to make the sale towards the end of February

Almost 3,000 customers of the Bank of Cyprus (BoC) have expressed interest in benefiting from the Estia debt-relief scheme for vulnerable homeowners, reports said on Friday.

According to the Cyprus News Agency, 2,980 out of the 4,320 BoC customers who received a letter with information on Estia have already said they want to apply for the scheme.

The lender estimates that the number of borrowers that fulfil eligibility criteria will rise to 5,000.

A large number of borrowers, around 3,790, have also contacted the bank themselves asking for information about the scheme.

Others may have already made other arrangements as regards their housing loans the bank said. Some may have been removed from the eligibility list after the lender, having assessed their data, deemed they do not fulfill criteria.

Legislators on Monday gave the nod to the release of the first €33m in taxpayers’ money to fund Estia.

The €33m, earmarked for this year alone, was approved ahead of the passage of government legislation establishing the scheme.

Parliament now expects the government to come up with tweaks to the scheme, so that its coverage expands to include very low-income households who have been servicing their loans but have trouble paying their instalments.

House finance committee chair, Angelos Votsis, said earlier in the week that parliament has yet to receive official confirmation of an agreement between the government and the participating banks – a prerequisite for the scheme to go live.

The stated purpose of ‘Estia’ is to assist, support, and protect vulnerable households who have mortgaged their houses for their loans.

To be eligible, a household must have a declared gross income of €50,000, and their primary residence which is mortgaged must have a maximum market value of €350,000.

These households are allowed to have other assets with a net value of up to 125 per cent of the value of the primary residence.  In effect this means a household with a home valued at €350,000 and other assets valued up to 125 per cent of that, which is €427,000, is still eligible for the scheme.

The loans will be written down to the market value of the primary residence and then the borrower will have to pay two-thirds of the rescheduled loan every month and the taxpayer (the state) is going to subsidise the one-third of the monthly instalments on that rescheduled loan.

It applies to loans (mortgages) that were classed as non-performing as at September 30, 2017. Loans designated as non-performing after that date are not eligible.

The scheme applies to the first mortgage on a residence, and covers loans or credit facilities regardless of currency.

Debts must continue to be non-performing up until the start of the applications period.

At the moment, low-income borrowers who have been servicing their loans were told by their banks they are not eligible to apply for Estia.

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