If you are a homeowner facing foreclosure or who has been foreclosed upon, it may look like nothing has been done to help you. While much, much more needs to be done, the good news is that many steps have been taken to hold banks accountable and bring help to people who need it -- victims of wrongful foreclosures as well as other lending practices that were misleading, discriminatory or unfair.
The bad news? They don't matter unless we take advantage of them! Below is a long list of settlements and reviews that were created to help struggling borrowers. Literally millions of people qualify for help, so take a look and see if you're one of them. In some cases, application deadlines are coming up, and if you miss the deadline, you may not get what you're owed.
Time is Running Out! Money Mart and Loan Mart Settlement: Deadline October 1
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera reached a settlement with payday lenders Money Mart and Loan Mart over predatory practices that occurred from 2005 through 2007. If you borrowed money from one of these companies during that time, you may be entitled to a refund of most of the interest, fees and finance charges, up to $1,800. The deadline to apply is Oct. 1, 2012. For more information, see here
And just for fun, check out this great video with the call-in number.
If you think your foreclosure was conducted unfairly or mistakes were made, relief is available in several forms:
Independent foreclosure review -- deadline Dec. 31. In April 2011, the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency took action against over 20 large mortgage servicers. If your primary home was involved in a foreclosure between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, you may qualify for a free independent foreclosure review.
Independent fact-checkers will determine whether you were harmed by errors or other problems and should be paid to make up for that harm. Borrowers seeking a review must apply by December 31, 2012.
Help with the form and answers to questions about the process are available at 1-888-952-9105. For more information, including a list of financial institutions involved, see here.
If you feel that you were wrongly foreclosed, you may be able to receive money from various legal settlements:
Attorneys general "robo-signing" settlement. Last February, the Justice Department and 49 state attorneys general announced a $26 billion settlement with five major banks over so-called "robo-signing," in which foreclosure documents were signed without properly verifying their accuracy. This isn't a perfect deal, but it offers meaningful relief for some homeowners in the form of principal reductions or other help. Thanks to Attorney General Kamala Harris, California got a specific commitment with more teeth than any other state.
The banks involved should notify borrowers of their possible eligibility for help, but we worry that these efforts may not be enough. Borrowers can contact the banks directly for additional information:
• Ally/GMAC: 800-766-4622
• Bank of America: 877-488-7814 (Available M-F 7 a.m.-9 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Central Time.)
• Citi: 866-272-4749
• JPMorgan Chase: 866-372-6901
• Wells Fargo: 800-288-3212 (Available M-F 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. Central Time)
More information is available from 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) or here.
Loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are not involved. To learn if your loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, see here or here.
Countrywide settlement. Last December , Bank of America - which took over Countrywide Financial during the mortgage meltdown -- agreed to pay $335 million to settle allegations that Countrywide discriminated against over 200,000 black and Hispanic borrowers by charging them higher fees and rates or steering them into costly subprime mortgages.
The process of notifying borrowers is supposed to begin shortly. Information is available here. If you believe Countrywide discriminated against you and have questions about the settlement, you can contact the independent administrator, Rust Consulting Inc., in English or Spanish, at (800) 843-5148 or info@CWFLSettlement.com.
Wells Fargo settlement. In July, the Justice Department reached a $175 million settlement with Wells Fargo, finding that Wells brokers and loan originators discriminated against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers from 2004 through 2009.
$124 million in payments are available to borrowers who got loans through mortgage brokers and were steered into subprime mortgages or who paid higher fees and rates than their white counterparts. In addition, Wells will give $50 million in direct down payment assistance to borrowers in locations with large numbers of discrimination victims and which were hit hard by the housing crisis.
An independent administrator will contact borrowers the Justice Department identifies as discrimination victims. Once this administrator is chosen, the department will post this information on its website. If you think you may have been a victim of lending discrimination by Wells Fargo you can email the department at firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information, see here
Capital One and Discover settlements. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently announced large settlements with these two major credit card issuers over misleading marketing of credit card add-ons such as "payment protection" plans. The settlements are expected to give refunds to a combined total of 5.5 million consumers. For information about the Capital One settlement, see here. For information about the Discover settlement, see here.