WASHINGTON — About 4 million homeowners who may have been improperly foreclosed upon in 2009 and 2010 are getting an opportunity to have their cases reviewed. Whether they will be reimbursed is up to the same lenders who are accused of moving too swiftly to seize their homes.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said Monday that mortgage services will begin sending out letters this month that ask borrowers if they want their case reviewed.
The nation's 14 largest mortgage servicers — including Citibank, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were ordered to offer to review cases after the government found that some rushed the foreclosure process without carefully reviewing documents.
The orders require the lenders pay homeowners when a "borrower suffered financial injury." There is no minimum or maximum dollar amount identified.
Critics, including congressional Democrats, say the orders were too lenient on the banks and that it was inappropriate for the lenders to review their own potential mistakes.
"Servicers have a poor performance track record in effectively engaging with borrowers, and, in the claims process, have a natural disincentive to reach the households their practices have harmed," wrote Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) in a letter to regulators.
Regulators say independent consultants will also review the cases and that those reviews would likely take several months. If a consultant finds that a lender erred, it will conduct follow-up reviews on other cases to see if the lender is trying to dodge blame.
"The challenge is substantial, but the steps we have required the servicers to take are vitally important to resolving these issues in a way that respects the rights of those who have been harmed and helps to restore confidence in the system," said John Walsh, acting Comptroller of the Currency.
In the four years since the housing bust, about 5 million homes have been foreclosed upon. About 2.4 million primary mortgages were in foreclosure at the end of last year. Another 2 million were 90 days or more past due, putting them at serious risk of foreclosure.
The other lenders and service providers cited by the agencies include: Ally Financial Inc., Aurora Bank, EverBank, HSBC, MetLife Bank, OneWest Bank, PNC, Soverign Bank, SunTrust Banks, U.S. Bank, Lender Processing Services and MER-SCORP.
Eligible homeowners can also call 888-952-9105 or go to www.independentforeclosurereview.com for more information. Requests to review specific foreclosure cases must be received by April 30.
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