Bank of America triples number of help centers for troubled homeowners
Bank of America (BAC) will open 28 new centers over the next two months to put distressed homeowners in touch with mortgage specialists. The expansion will bring the total number of BofA help centers to 40, more than tripling the 12 it has already opened. The bank said metropolitan areas hardest hit by the economic downturn and foreclosure crisis will see new centers cropping up. Two in Detroit were already announced. In the second half of 2011, BofA will announce additional expansion. "Although we see signs of improvement, including slowing mortgage delinquencies, many homeowners continue to struggle to make their payments as a result of hardships in today's economic environment," said Rebecca Mairone, national mortgage outreach executive for BofA. BofA was one of the 14 large mortgage servicers to come under investigation from regulators and the 50 state attorneys general for mishandling foreclosures. Moody's Investors Service downgraded the bank's servicer ratings this week. The bank signed consent orders with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, requiring it to install new policies and oversight, which the bank has already begun. When the first centers opened in 2009, counselors met with more than 17,000 homeowners. They've already met with 3,700 borrowers in the first quarter of 2011. Mairone is part of a new department at BofA built to work through its portfolio of delinquent mortgages and sort through the repurchase and warranties claims. The department is the source of HousingWire's May cover story. The bank doubled its outreach staff this year and has scheduled 34 homeowner events over the next two months. "One of the most difficult challenges we face is encouraging homeowners who are behind on their payments to respond to our invitations to work with them toward a solution," Mairone said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.