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Q&A: What the foreclosure settlement means for homeowners

Here's how homeowners can get their share of the $25-billion foreclosure settlement.

February 09, 2012|By Matt Stevens
  • Hundreds of thousands of homes have gone into foreclosure in Los Angeles County. Above, a neighborhood in Palmdale.
Hundreds of thousands of homes have gone into foreclosure in Los Angeles…

Homeowners who were affected by the collapse of the housing market and a wave of foreclosure abuses may get a share of the $25-billion settlement announced Thursday morning.

The up to 2 million people who are struggling to make loan payments, owe more than their homes are worth or have already lost their homes could receive aid from the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers that settled with federal officials and 49 state attorneys general today.

Though it is unclear exactly how much money each homeowner might receive, officials have estimated that about $17 billion will go to current homeowners, to help reduce the principal they owe on their mortgages, while people who have already lost their homes can expect to receive checks for $1,500 to $2,000.

The National Mortgage Settlement has prepared some immediate answers for homeowners wondering how to get their share of the settlement:   

Q: What is a mortgage servicer and how do I know who services my loan?

A: The company that you make your monthly payment to is your mortgage servicer.  Your mortgage servicer may or may not be a lending institution and may or may not own your loan.  Many of the loans administered by servicers are owned by third-party investors.

This settlement involves the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers and you may reach them at the Web sites and phone numbers below:

Loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are not impacted by this settlement.  You may visit the following websites to learn if your loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac: These sites will also include information about mortgage and foreclosure programs you may be eligible to access.

Q: How will I know whether this settlement affects my situation?

A: Only homeowners in the states who joined the settlement are eligible for benefits under this settlement. Borrowers from Oklahoma will not be eligible for any of the relief directly to homeowners because Oklahoma elected not to join the settlement.

Because of the complexity of the mortgage market and this agreement, which will be performed over a three year period, borrowers from the settlement states will not immediately know if they are eligible for relief.

For loan modifications and refinance options, borrowers may be contacted directly by one of the five participating mortgage servicers.

For borrowers who lost their home to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2011, a settlement administrator designated by the attorneys general will send claim forms to persons eligible for cash restitution.

Even if you are not contacted, if your loan is serviced by one of the five settling banks, you are encouraged to contact your servicer to see if you are eligible. 

In any event, borrowers may contact their mortgage servicer to obtain more information about specific loan modification programs and whether the borrower may be impacted by this settlement.

Q: A majority of mortgages are unaffected by this settlement. When will you work to obtain relief for the vast majority of homeowners?

A: This settlement primarily affects mortgages that are owned and held by the nation’s largest bank servicers.  Those homeowners may receive benefits such as modifications, principal reductions or direct payments from lenders.

Two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, control a majority of the nation’s mortgage loans.  GSE loans are not eligible for parts of this settlement because of positions their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Administrator (FHFA), has taken.

However, homeowners with GSE-controlled mortgages who won’t directly benefit from settlement-related programs – that’s most of us – will still see benefits through reduced  foreclosures, stabilizing home values and significant new mortgage servicing standards and consumer protections.

This settlement, in addition to recent federal efforts to modify Freddie and Fannie loans, means that the majority of distressed borrowers might qualify for some level of help.

Q:  Will there be payments to foreclosure victims?

A: Yes. Approximately $1.5 billion of the settlement funds will be allocated to compensation to borrowers who were foreclosed on after January 1, 2008 and before Dec. 31, 2011.  These borrowers will be notified of their right to file a claim.  Borrowers who were not properly offered loss mitigation or who were otherwise improperly foreclosed on will be eligible for a uniform payment, which will be approximately $2000 per borrower depending on level of response.  Borrowers who receive payments will not have to release any claims and will be free to seek additional relief in the courts.  Borrowers may also be eligible for a separate restitution process administered by the federal banking regulators.

RELATED:

Officials say $25-billion foreclosure deal will help heal market

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