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House bill introduced to crack down on mortgage servicers

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Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives pushing for more requirements such as modifications and disclosures before servicers can file a foreclosure case. The bill, H.R. 1477, is a companion to S.489 introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). Both bills would apply to loans not only covered by the U.S. government, including the Federal Housing Administration and the government-sponsored enterprises, but to all mortgages falling under the supervision of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The legislation also provides $1 billion to the National Housing Trust Fund for state and local governments to access when establishing foreclosure mediation programs and other purposes. And it establishes other requirements to these servicers. "This legislation will force servicers to staff up," Cummings said in a conference call with reporters. Servicers cannot pursue a foreclosure on these loans until the borrower has been considered for a modification, ending the practice of "dual-tracking," according to the bill. It also requires lenders to show they have the legal right to foreclose and provides an appeals process for homeowners who are denied a modification. Servicers would be required to provide the borrower documentation on why the mod was denied, including the net-present-value test, the note and proof of assignment on the mortgage, any pooling and servicing agreement and payment history. Cummings said the legislation directly addresses the robo-signing scandal uncovered late last year, in which major servicers were found to be signing affidavits en masse and without a proper review of the loan information. On Tuesday, Cummings wrote a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, saying that from what he has learned so far, the deal is not stringent enough. This legislation, he said, will be. The OCC plans to release details of the consent order Wednesday afternoon. Sen. Reed echoed those very comments, calling the OCC consent order "vague, toothless and unacceptable." "We are at a very critical moment," Reed said. "If we don't address the foreclosure crisis, the housing market will continue to be a drag on the overall economic recovery." Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.

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