News Column

Mortgage Settlement to Bring Average of $75,949 to Floridians

February 26, 2013

Donna Gehrke-White, Sun Sentinel

The historic settlement involving the nation's five largest mortgage lenders has so far helped nearly 102,000 struggling Florida homeowners for an average $75,949 in relief, according to a new report.

Short sales accounted for almost $3.3 billion in relief -- or most of the financial help to Floridians -- based information supplied by the five banks and outlined the report prepared by the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight, a private group set up to administer the settlement. The lenders agreed to to take an average loss of $112,000 per mortgage involving 29,251 homeowners.

Still, most Floridians have gotten help from the program via second mortgages being completely forgiven, the mortgage settlement office reported. Some 36,494 Floridians have had an average of $67,448 being erased from what they owe, the office said, citing the lenders' statistics.

Overall, Floridians are getting more than 18 percent of all monies given throughout the nation in the $25 billion settlement, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said. The five involved in the settlement -- Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo -- agreed last year to pay $25 billion nationwide to settle allegations of past abuse against struggling homeowners.

"We will continue to closely monitor the banks' compliance to ensure that Floridians receive the full benefits of the relief afforded under the settlement," Bondi said, adding "We will not have a definitive picture until the national monitor issues his audited compliance report later this year."

Florida has $60 million in mortgage help from the settlement to give out -- in downpayment assistance, housing counseling, legal aid and better funded courts for foreclosure-related issues, Bondi said. The Legislature will allocate another $200 million from the settlement this spring.

One of the shortfalls in the settlement, Bondi acknowledged, has been a lack of foreclosed Florida homeowners applying for aid.

Last month she traveled throughout the state last month to urge people to apply for $170 million in relief available to Florida homeowners who were foreclosed on between January 2008 and December 2011.

About 167,000 were sent letters to apply, but only 88,857 -- or just over half of those -- had applied, Bondi said.

Now the deadline has expired for people to apply. The money will be evenly divided this summer among the Floridians who filed claims based on the lenders reporting that their homes where in foreclosure.

However, some South Florida owners had complained that lenders did not report their foreclosure to the National Mortgage Settlement Administrator and they had been turned away from even applying.

Indeed, Florida has been second only to California in stressed homeowners complaining about the banks' implementation of the program, according to the report by the Settlement Administrator.

To contact the National Mortgage Settlement Administrator, call 866-430-8358 or click here.


For more stories on investments and markets, please see HispanicBusiness' Finance Channel



Source: (c)2013 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services