After more than a year of wrangling over various mortgage relief proposals, influential state leaders seem close to adopting a plan that Pres. Obama announced Feb. 1. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York and California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris have indicated they are closer to agreement than in the past.
There are two important elements of the plan and details of both have been a subject of fierce disagreement. One, which could be worth about $25 billion, relates to how much money would be allocated to benefit homeowners and the specific relief they would receive. The other involves the power states would have to investigate past practices by banks, oversee future ones and monitor compliance with the plan.
If the plan is adopted, here’s what it would do for homeowners in specific situations.
Mortgage underwater but current with payments. More than 10 million homeowners in the U.S., due to a decline in home prices, owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. So even though interest rates have declined, they have been unable to refinance. The latest plan would enable people who have been making loan payments on time to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing with lower-interest loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration.
Mortgage underwater and behind with payments. Depending on how many states sign on to the plan, up to $17 billion would be set aside to reduce principal for homeowners who are behind on their payments and owe more than their houses are currently worth. The plan would not guarantee a minimum amount of mortgage relief by state.
Victims of foreclosure fraud. The plan would provide payments of about $1,800 apiece to approximately 750,000 families that have been the victim of improper foreclosure practices. Since 2010, federal authorities have been investigating banks’ routine electronic notarization of documents being transferred from one financial institution to another as part of the foreclosure process–a practice known as robo-signing.
Compensation is likely to be offered to people who lost their homes between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2011. They would not be required to give up their right to sue the financial institutions. Banks, among them the five biggest mortgage providers–Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial—want to be relieved of liability for future claims involving robo-signing.
In announcing the plan on Feb. 1, the President said he was “working to turn more foreclosed homes into rental housing.” So far such a plan is not contained in the pending proposal.
Deborah L. Jacobs, Forbes Staff
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