New figures from the Central Bank show that the number of homeowners in mortgage arrears for more than 90 days fell to 5.2% at the end of March, from 5.3% three months earlier.

The number of home mortgage accounts in arrears fell by 2,838 in the first three months of the year, mainly as a result of a decline in shorter-term arrears - up to 90 days in arrears - which decreased by 1,776 accounts.

Longer-term accounts in arrears also declined, with accounts in arrears over a year falling by 619 accounts over the last quarter

The Central Bank said that of the 37,723 accounts in arrears for more than 90 days, 8,632 were overdue by between two and five years, 10,451 by five to 10 years and 5,416 were in arrears for more than 10 years.

Today's figures also show that a total of 72,342 home mortgage accounts were categorised as restructured at the end of March, representing 10% of total home mortgage accounts outstanding.

The total number of restructure arrangements fell by 524 accounts, 0.7%, over the quarter, the Central Bank said.

4,572 new restructure arrangements agreed during the first quarter of 2021 and the Central Bank said that 87% of restructured accounts were deemed to be meeting the terms of their arrangement, up slightly from last quarter.

This means that the borrower is, at least, meeting the agreed monthly repayments according to the current restructure arrangement.

Of the mortgage accounts in arrears, the Central Bank said that 7,260 accounts (14%) are currently part of a legal process.

Most of these (5,109 accounts) of these have been in the legal system for over two years, with some 2,242 of those accounts in the courts system for over five years.

The Central Bank figures also reveal that 14,532 buy-to-let mortgage accounts were in arrears at the end of March, a decrease of 606 accounts or 4% over the quarter.

Of the total number of buy-to-let accounts in arrears, 20% (or 2,855 accounts) were overdue by between two and five years, a further 29% were in arrears by between five and 10 years and 15% were in arrears over 10 years.

A total of 10,393 buy-to-let mortgages were categorised as restructured at the end of March, reflecting a decrease of 338 accounts over the quarter.

87% of these were meeting the terms of their current restructure arrangement, the Central Bank said.

During the first quarter of 2021, the Central Bank said the courts granted an order for repossession or sale of the property affecting 42 accounts.

A total of 21 private dwelling homes were taken into possession by lenders during the quarter, down from 29 properties in the previous quarter.

Of the total properties taken into possession during the quarter, the majority of properties, at 16, were voluntarily surrendered or abandoned, with the remaining five repossessed on foot of a court order. 43 properties were disposed of by lenders in the first three months of the year.

As a result, lenders were in possession of 721 homes at the end of March, the Central Bank said.

Brokers Ireland said it was positive that the number of borrowers in short-term arrears has fallen, but said the level of long-term arrears remains substantial and it is part of why Irish mortgage holders are paying the second highest interest rates in the euro area.

Rachel McGovern, Director of Financial Services at Brokers Ireland, said the prolonging of dealing with such arrears is contributing to the higher rates of interest other mortgage holders are paying.