Millions of borrowers who could have their foreclosure cases checked for errors – and possibly get restitution – are passing up the chance.
Federal banking regulators announced Wednesday that they’ll extend an April 30 deadline for consumers to request such reviews to July 31.
Only 89,000 people have asked for reviews even though more than 4 million got letters from the government late last year telling them that they could, says Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Consumer groups say promotion was flawed by letters that were too legalistic and text-heavy advertisements that weren’t eye-catching.
“They’ve done a pretty lousy job on public outreach,” says Ira Rheingold, director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
The reviews are part of last year’s federal settlement with 14 mortgage servicers and affiliates who manage home loans. They’re separate from the $25 billion settlement that states and the federal government reached last week with some of the same servicers.
Borrowers hurt by foreclosure abuses could receive help under both settlements.
Under the first, auditors hired by the servicers but approved by regulators will review cases. The consumer letters included a 13-question form asking people to describe how the foreclosure process financially harmed them.
The letters “looked like what you’d get from a loan scamming company. A lot of them probably got tossed,” says Deborah Goldberg, of the National Fair Housing Alliance.
The OCC, overseeing the settlement with the Federal Reserve, has not estimated how much the settlement will cost servicers. In addition to examining the cases of borrowers who ask for reviews, auditors are sample-checking 100,000 other foreclosure cases, Hubbard says.
The settlement covers people who were harmed in foreclosures in 2009 and 2010, if their servicer is part of the settlement. More information is at independentforeclosurereview.com.
With the $25 billion settlement, $1.5 billion will go to up to 750,000 consumers – payouts could be about $2,000 depending on borrower response. Payouts won’t require loan reviews.
A settlement administrator will send claim forms. The process is expected to take months. See nationalmortgagesettlement.com for details.
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