Foreclosure reviews less popular in hardest hit states
By Jon Prior
As a percentage, borrowers in the states least hit by the foreclosure process accepted more foreclosure reviews offered by federal regulators than those in states most impacted by the crisis, according to an analysis of government data.
The 14 largest mortgage servicers agreed to hire third-party consultants for a review of foreclosure actions taken in 2009 and 2010 for possible fraud. Possible payouts range between $1,000 to $125,000 plus lost equity in the home for those improperly evicted. More than 4.3 million mailings went out nationwide, but as of May 31, just 4.4% or 193,000 borrowers requested a review, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Regulators extended the deadline to request a review to Sept. 30, but some states already took up the offer more than others.
Combining the states with the highest foreclosure rates or largest backlogs of stalled filings, more than 2.6 million review mailings went to borrowers in California, Florida, Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, Michigan, New York, Ohio, New Jersey and Nevada. Just 4% of those that received a mailing requested the review, or 109,000 borrowers, according to OCC data.
However, of the 1.7 million mailings that went to all other states, roughly 5% – a full percentage point more than the hardest hit states – accepted the review.
A report from the Government Accountability Office last week showed the materials mailed and approved by the OCC and the Federal Reserve were written above the average reading level of the U.S. population.
While the servicers and third-party consultants did include information about the scope and process for the review, they included no information about what type of remediation borrowers could expect, the GAO found.
“The materials do not provide specific information about remediation—an important feature to encourage responses as suggested by best practices and reflected in notification examples GAO reviewed,” according to the report. “Without informing borrowers what type of remediation they may receive, borrowers may not be motivated to participate. “
Others point to sheer exhaustion from borrowers – particularly those in the hardest hit states – with many disappointing and slow-working foreclosure prevention programs since the crisis struck.
Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry said in a letter responding to the GAO that it allowed nonprofit housing groups to visit Promontory Group, the third-party auditing firm responsible for the Bank of America ($7.82 0.34%) reviews. Three servicers, total, accepted support from advocacy organizations to reach more borrowers, according to Curry.
“Until analysis of the characteristics of respondents compared to nonrespondents is conducted, the potential that certain subgroups of eligible borrowers do not have a fair opportunity to request a foreclosure review remains,” the GAO said.