We received yet another email from a woman who has been trying to keep her house out of foreclosure for the past 18 months.
She reached out to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and filed a complaint at their HelpWithMyBank.gov website. The OCC stepped in and got her initial foreclosure (set for February, 2011) postponed. Then, she filed suit against her lender and the judge told the bank to work with her to get her mortgage situation settled.
Instead, she spent a frustrating 10 months trying to reach the individual at the bank who was supposed to help her, under court order, without success. Out of the blue, the bank set a new foreclosure date of February 27.
While some things have been getting better for homeowners, there are millions who are still in trouble. Federal officials estimate that there are perhaps two million homeowners who are somewhere in the foreclosure process and more who may go through it. In the third quarter of 2011, Freddie Mac noted that the number of severe mortgage delinquencies (more than 60 days) had risen again.
For those who feel they have been unfairly dragged through the foreclosure process, or who were foreclosed upon without due process or because of inaccurate information, the OCC has worked on a wide-ranging settlement to help those homeowners whose primary residences was part of a foreclosure action between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, and whose home loan was serviced by a participating lender (more on that in a moment) to go through an Independent Foreclosure Review process.
While this sounds like an ad you might hear on late-night television, we can assure you it is not.
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (which regulates the largest lenders in the country) have required an Independent Foreclosure Review by an independent consultant (Rust Consulting is the central administrator of the Independent Foreclosure Review process) to identify eligible customers who may have been financially injured due to errors, misrepresentations or other deficiencies in their foreclosure process. If the review finds that financial injury occurred, the customer may receive compensation or other remedy.
In order for you to start the process of a review, according to the website, IndependentForeclosureReview.com, your property must have started out through a foreclosure action including:
• Your property was sold due to a foreclosure judgment.
• Your mortgage loan was referred into the foreclosure process but was removed from the process because payments were brought up-to-date or you entered into a payment plan or modification program.
• Your mortgage loan was referred into the foreclosure process, but the home was sold or the borrower participated in a short sale or chose a deed-in-lieu or other program to avoid foreclosure.
• Your mortgage loan was referred into the foreclosure process and remains delinquent but the foreclosure sale has not yet taken place.
But these foreclosure actions alone do not mean you are entitled to a foreclosure review. If your loan did not start or go through the foreclosure process, this independent review will not be available to you even if the bank has made errors on your account or failed to give you a loan modification.
The Independent Foreclosure Review will be looking for examples of financial injuries or breakdowns in the foreclosure process including: The mortgage balance amount at the time of the foreclosure action was more than you actually owed; You were doing everything the modification agreement required, but the foreclosure sale still happened; The foreclosure action occurred while you were protected by bankruptcy; You requested assistance/modification, submitted complete documents on time, and were waiting for a decision when the foreclosure sale occurred; Fees charged or mortgage payments were inaccurately calculated, processed, or applied; The foreclosure action occurred on a mortgage that was obtained before active duty military service began and while on active duty, or within 9 months after the active duty ended and the servicemember did not waive his/her rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Participating lenders include: America’s Servicing Co.; Aurora Loan Services; BAC Home Loans Servicing; Bank of America; Beneficial; Chase; Citibank; CitiFinancial; CitiMortgage; Countrywide; EMC; EverBank/EverHome Mortgage Company; Financial Freedom; GMAC Mortgage; HFC; HSBC; IndyMac Mortgage Services; MetLife Bank; National City Mortgage; PNC Mortgage; Sovereign Bank; SunTrust Mortgage; U.S. Bank; Wachovia Mortgage; Washington Mutual (WaMu); Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.; and Wilshire Credit Corporation.
If you believe you qualify for an Independent Foreclosure Review, you can request the form (or get help completing the form you received in the mail) by calling toll-free (888) 952-9105, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–10 p.m. ET or Saturday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. ET.
Once you fill out the form and mail it in, you will be sent an acknowledgement letter within one week after your Request for Review Form is received by the independent review administrator. Your request will be reviewed first for inclusion in the Independent Foreclosure Review. If your request meets the eligibility requirements, it will be reviewed by an independent consultant.
According to the website, your loan servicer will provide relevant documents along with any findings and recommendations related to your request for review to the independent consultant for review. Your servicer may be asked to clarify or confirm facts and disclose reasons for events that occurred related to the foreclosure process. You could be asked to provide additional information or documentation. Because the review process will be a thorough and complete examination of many details and documents, the review could take several months.
The Independent Foreclosure Review will determine whether financial injury has occurred as a result of errors, misrepresentations or other deficiencies in the foreclosure process. You will receive a letter with the findings of the review and information about possible compensation or other remedy.
Eligible customers (determined by an independent audit overseen by the OCC) should have been sent a letter by December 31, 2011 that explains the Independent Foreclosure Review process and a Request for Review Form that identifies some examples of situations that may have led to financial injury. The form must be completed and postmarked no later than April 30, 2012.
In the review, loan servicers were required to include all loans covered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (http://militarypay.defense.gov/Benefits/SCRA.html) that meet the qualifying criteria. However, servicemembers or co-borrowers may also request a review through this process. According to the OCC, financial injury may have occurred if the foreclosure action occurred on a mortgage that was obtained before active duty military service began and while on active duty, or within 9 months after the active duty ended.
Warning: Watch out for scams—there is only one Independent Foreclosure Review, although it sounds like dozens of scam sites that we have visited and read about that are sucking in desperate homeowners. Here’s a big tip-off: The Independent Foreclosure Review is free. Beware of anyone who asks you to pay a fee in exchange for a service to complete the Request for Review Form, as they may be trying to scam you. The review will not have an impact on your credit report or any other options you may pursue related to your foreclosure – or at least that’s the story we’re getting now.
If you are having trouble paying your mortgage and believe your lender or loan servicer is not assisting you properly, you can file a complaint with the OCC’s HelpWithMyBank.gov website.