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Settlement designed to help troubled homeowners

State House Bureau

February 22. 2012 11:41PM

CONCORD - Attorney General Michael Delaney said the recent settlement with five national banks is not the only help for homeowners harmed by the bank deceptive or unfair practices.

He told reporters at a press conference Wednesday with the Governor and Executive Council and banking commissioner, that there are other joint state and federal investigations on-going and other options for homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure.

'We have just begun,' he said.

Delaney outlined how the state will allocate the $43.6 million it will receive as part of national $25 billion settlement with the country's five largest banks - Bank of America, Citigroup, GMAC/Allied Financial, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo - over deceptive and unfair mortgage practices.

Gov. John Lynch and Delaney called on the Legislature to overturn a nearly decade old law that prevents the Attorney General from acting on consumer complaints against institutions regulated by other government agencies like the banking and insurance departments.

Lynch said New Hampshire is the only state in the country to handle consumer complaints this way and it is time for it to end.

The Attorney General's Office has established a hotline for homeowners who believe they have been harmed by the five banks' deceptive mortgage practices and Delaney urged people to call the number 1-866-522-4450.

Delaney said the five banks hold more than half of all the mortgages in the state.

There are five key programs: The principal reduction program has $19.5 million available for loan terms changes and direct relief. Delaney said at least 60 percent must be used to reduce the principal balance for home loans for borrowers who are in default or who are at serious risk of default.

The Refinancing Program has $9.5 million to refinance loans for underwater borrowers in New Hampshire. To qualify, a homeowner has to be current on the mortgage, the mortgage higher than the home's value, and the interest rate higher than 5.25 percent.

The Compensation Program for borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2008 and 2011 has $5.6 million available. Delaney said the program will provide about $1,800 to each person who lost a home.

He said those eligible will be contacted, but he encouraged people to call the hotline as well to see if they qualify.

'The foreclosure victims harmed by these five banks ought to be outraged,' Delaney said. 'This is the first step and one piece of a comprehensive compensation procedure.'

He said those who suffered foreclosure may be eligible for compensation under a cease and desist order through the Controller of the Currency and Federal Reserve Board. Delaney said an independent consultant will conduct a foreclosure review to see if a person qualifies for compensation.

The Attorney General's Office will receive $10 million and the Banking Department $1 million for enforcement and services to homeowners.

Delaney and Banking Commissioner Ron Wilber said the money would help enhance and expand existing programs to help homeowners.

Wilbur said the settlement should help break the log jam in the real estate market. Getting real estate moving will help homeowners, the industry and the state's economy he said.

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