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Politics & MoneyMortgage

California AG says mortgage servicers slow to adopt settlement changes

The California monitor of the $25 billion national mortgage servicing settlement received roughly 1,100 complaints since March from borrowers reporting a slow uptake to the new rules, according to an official in the state attorney general office.

California AG Kamala Harris appointed Katie Porter in March to oversee how the five largest servicers distribute $18 billion in homeowner relief and implement new standards under the settlement. Consent orders from federal regulators in April 2011 contained many of the same rules.

Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), Citigroup (C), and Ally Financial agreed to end the practice of foreclosing on borrowers who are being considered for a modification, known as dual tracking. The settlement also required servicers to establish a single point of contact for distressed borrowers, new oversight to end mishandled paperwork and the signing of documents en masse without a review of the loan file among other abuses.

Brian Nelson, special assistant AG for the California Justice Department said during a HousingWire webinar on the state’s new Homeowner Bill of Rights, that the largest servicers are working to make the changes, especially BofA.

But it may not be until October until homeowners start seeing the results, he said.

“Some are not yet having access to the new protections,” Nelson said. “(Porter) is working with the banks and the national settlement monitor Joseph Smith to make sure that these protections are being put into place.”

Smith said in a statement Thursday his office received preliminary data on the relief activity under the settlement. A report would be due in the coming weeks over progress made through June.

“I am now thoroughly reviewing the data. Within the next several weeks, I will release an official report with my analysis of these numbers and other issues pertaining to the settlement,” Smith said.

The settlement standards sunset after three years. California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed into law new protections known as the Homeowner Bill of Rights that would last beyond that. And servicers are still working out the details.

For instance, Nelson said, dual-tracking is outlawed for borrowers who submit an application for a modification. But if negotiations are still ongoing for a short sale, the servicer can still proceed with the foreclosure.

Under the law, borrowers can sue for an injunction in a foreclosure proceeding until a servicer corrects any abuses discovered. If the sale is already made, borrowers are also allowed to sue for damages.

Servicers do get a “safe harbor” from any legal blowback under the law if they are found to be in compliance with the settlement terms.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed national rules recently that mirror the settlement and the California law. The guidelines should be finalized in January.

“The AG felt the settlement terms should be permanent,” Nelson said. “She’s always felt that in three years there should not be a diversion back to dual-tracking. There should never be a moment that it’s OK to robo-sign documents either.”

jprior@housingwire.com

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