Mortgage foreclosure relief available for distressed homeowners


foreclosure

I recently reported on important relief available to homeowners facing foreclosure, paying more than their house is worth or those who have been foreclosed upon and lost their home.

As crucial deadlines are fast approaching, I am providing an updated summary of assistance available for struggling homeowners and other victims of unfair lending practices — and what you need to do to access it.

Remember, these programs matter but unless you take advantage of them, help is not available. A proactive approach is required.

Thousands of Floridians qualify for help. Below is a list of settlements and reviews that were created to help struggling borrowers. In some cases, application deadlines are coming up. If you miss the deadline, you will not qualify for relief.

Independent Foreclosure Review vs. National Mortgage Settlement:

If you believe your home mortgage foreclosure was conducted unfairly or mistakes were made, relief is available in several forms:

Independent Foreclosure Review

In April 2011, the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency took action against over 20 large mortgage servicers. If your primary home was involved in a foreclosure between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, you may qualify for a free independent foreclosure review.

Independent fact-checkers will determine whether you were harmed by mortgage foreclosure errors or other problems and should be paid to make up for that harm. Borrowers seeking a review must apply by December 31, 2012.

Help with the form and answers to questions about the process are available on the Independent Foreclosure Review website or by calling 888-952-9105.

The following mortgage servicers are participating in the Independent Foreclosure Review process:

“Homeowners who believe they were wrongfully injured by a foreclosure error in 2009 and 2010, should request a review,” stated Bryan Hubbard, an Office of the Comptroller of the Currency spokesman. “They give up no rights by requesting a review.”

In effort to assist with the application process, the Federal Reserve has put together a short “Independent Foreclosure Review PSA” video. The video provides program details in English and in Spanish.

For in-depth information on how to spread the word to your local area, please visit the community partner toolkit.

National Mortgage Settlement

Last February, the U.S. Department of Justice and 49 state attorneys general announced a $25 billion settlement with five major banks over so-called “robo-signing,” in which foreclosure documents were signed without properly verifying their accuracy.

While not a perfect deal, the settlement offers meaningful relief for some homeowners in the form of principal or interest reductions, in addition to other relief.

The National Mortgage Settlement administrator recently mailed Notice Letters and Claim Forms to those borrowers who lost their home due to foreclosure between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011 whose loans were serviced by one of the five servicers: Ally/GMACBank of AmericaCitiJPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.

Impacted homeowners can now submit their claim form online. The deadline to file is January 18, 2013.

If you think you may be eligible, you can contact your bank directly for additional information:

Ally/GMAC: 800-766-4622

Bank of America: 877-488-7814 (Available M-F 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Central Time.)

Citi: 866-272-4749

JPMorgan Chase: 866-372-6901

Wells Fargo: 800-288-3212 (Available M-F 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Central Time)

For more information, please visit the National Mortgage Settlement website or call them at 888-995-HOPE (4673).

To learn whether your loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, visit their website and complete the convenient online form for an instant determination.

“Whether it be through the Independent Foreclosure Review or the National Foreclosure Settlement, homeowners faced with a foreclosure should take advantage of this review,” stated Fort Lauderdale foreclosure defense attorney Carlos Reyes. “The process is free and totally without fee. Don’t let someone charge you for completing an application that you can complete yourself online in less than 30 minutes.”

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Time running out for a free mortgage foreclosure review


 

Were you involved in a mortgage foreclosure action in 2009 or 2010? If so, you may be eligible for relief through a widely ignored governmental program targeting homeowners that have lost the place they call home.

According to RealtyTrac, there were 26,412 Florida homes in some stage of foreclosure in May. That included 14,768 new filings, an 83 percent increase over last year.

Last year, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the Office of Thrift Supervision announced enforcement action against 14 large residential mortgage servicers and two third-party vendors for unsafe and unsound practices related to residential mortgage servicing and foreclosure processing.

Among the sanctions received by mortgage servicers was an obligation to independently review problematic foreclosures. In an effort to reach as many Americans as possible, the government has extended the “Independent Foreclosure Review” program through September 30.

Homeowners who lost their home to foreclosure are not eligible to have it returned but may be eligible for a cash payment of up to $2,000. Affected homeowners may also be eligible to have most, if not all, of any deficiency balance waived.

There were more that 6.6 million foreclosures nationwide between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010, according to RealtyTrac. A consulting firm acting on this information and on behalf of federal bank regulators mailed almost 4.4 million letters to homeowners who may be eligible to have their foreclosures reviewed for mistakes.

Thousands of Floridians have been deemed eligible for an Independent Foreclosure Review, but have yet to make an application for relief under the program. 

The three-month extension provides not only the 14 sanctioned mortgage servicers who may have harmed homeowners more time to notify them of the federal enforcement action, but also the 13 additional mortgage servicers — who joined the program in an effort to identify impacted borrowers — an opportunity for independent foreclosure review as well.

So far, the response has been extremely disappointing.

As of May 31, the independent consultants have received 193,630 requests for review. The servicers themselves, through their own sampling, selected an additional 144,817 cases, for a total of 338,447.

Although the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency believes the number of applications will dramatically increase by the end of July, just 7.7 percent of the estimated 4.4 million homeowners believed eligible have applied for review.

“If a homeowner believes they were wrongfully injured by a foreclosure error in 2009 and 2010, they should request a review,” stated Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for the OCC. “They give up no rights by requesting a review.”

To be eligible for relief, affected mortgages must have been for a homeowner’s primary residence and in active foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010.

The following mortgage servicers are participating in the Independent Foreclosure Review process:

America’s Servicing Company , Aurora Loan Services, BAC Home Loans Servicing, Bank of America, Beneficial, Chase, Citibank, CitiFinancial, CitiMortgage, Countrywide, EMC, EverBank/EverHome Mortgage Company, Financial Freedom, GMAC Mortgage, HFC, HSBC, IndyMac Mortgage Services, MetLife Bank, National City Mortgage, PNC Mortgage, Sovereign Bank, SunTrust Mortgage, U.S. Bank, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo and Wilshire Credit Corporation.

The Independent Foreclosure Review should not be confused with the $25 billion national mortgage settlement recently negotiated between most of the states’ attorneys general and the big five mortgage servicers: Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC). Every state in the nation but Oklahoma is participating.

According to the government-mandated oversight website IndependentForeclosureReview.com, some primary examples of mortgage servicer mistakes that may have resulted in financial injury are:

— The mortgage balance was overstated or miscalculated at the time of foreclosure

— Foreclosure proceedings were initiated despite the fact that the homeowner was in bankruptcy, waiting to hear about a request for mortgage modification or abiding by terms of a mortgage modification

— The foreclosure proceedings coincided with active military service.

The Independent Foreclosure Review process is free and can be completed online at www.independentforeclosurereview.com or through the mail. Applications must be processed by September 30 to be eligible for review.

Homeowners in need of assistance should call 888-952-9105. In an effort to assist with the application process, the Federal Reserve has put together a short “Independent Foreclosure Review PSA” video. The video provides program details in English and in Spanish.

Foreclosures nationwide rose to over 200,000 for the first time in two months.  Georgia has the highest rate of foreclosures in the country with one in every 300 housing units, followed by Arizona, Nevada, California, Illinois and Florida.

 “Homeowners faced with a foreclosure in 2009 or 2010 should take advantage of this review,” stated Fort Lauderdale foreclosure defense attorney Carlos Reyes. “The process is free and totally without fee. Don’t let someone charge you for completing an application you can complete online in less than 30 minutes.”

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, visit www.williamlewis.us.

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 740 WSBR.

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