By Michelle Singletary Herald Columnist
If you lost your house to foreclosure, the last thing you may want to do is relive the pain.
But if you suspect that something was wrong during the foreclosure process, you need to take advantage of an independent review mandated by federal banking regulators.
Last year, 14 large residential mortgage servicers were required by the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision to retain independent consultants to conduct a review of their foreclosure actions. This was the result of widespread complaints by consumer advocates and borrowers about deceitful and improper foreclosure practices by mortgage servicers.
If consultants find fault during the review, then borrowers who suffered financial injury because of errors, misrepresentations or other problems in the foreclosure process may get money or some other remedy.
At the end of 2011, a consulting firm acting on behalf of federal bank regulators sent 4.3 million letters to individuals who might be eligible to have their foreclosure actions reviewed. Through May 17, more than 194,000 people responded asking for such a review. Another 142,000 people have been specifically selected for review because either their foreclosure related to a bankruptcy or the foreclosure might have violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides certain rights to military members.
“If people believe they were wrongfully injured by a foreclosure error in 2009 and 2010, they should request a review,” said Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for the OCC. “They give up no rights by requesting a review.”
To also qualify, the foreclosure had to be on your primary residence and the mortgage servicer had to come from one of the 14 participating companies.
If you received a letter, you may have thought: Why bother? You might be skeptical that anything will come of it. But don’t lose out on the chance to get some redemption if it turns out your mortgage servicer did something wrong.
“The review can take several months and they are very detailed,” Hubbard said.
There’s another bonus to finding out if you qualify for a review. Requests from eligible borrowers where a foreclosure sale is imminent will receive priority attention, the OCC has said. However don’t expect too much. You still need to work with your mortgage servicer to determine if the foreclosure can be avoided. Although asking for a review won’t automatically postpone or stop a foreclosure process, the extra attention might help.
The review isn’t just for folks whose home sold through foreclosure. Consultants will be looking at cases where homes were slated for foreclosure but the process stopped because payments were brought up to date, the borrower entered a payment plan or modification program, or the home was sold in a short sale or given back to the lender. But you have to act soon. The deadline for requests to get a review by an independent consultant is July 31.
Additional letters will be sent out in early June, Hubbard said. And to increase awareness of eligibility, the Federal Reserve has put together a short video that can be found on YouTube by searching for “Independent Foreclosure Review PSA.”
Here are some additional things that might have gone wrong in your foreclosure action that consultants will examine:
•The mortgage balance was listed incorrectly.
The foreclosure occurred while someone was waiting for a modification even though the person submitted all of the paperwork on time.
A borrower believes the mortgage payment and/or the fees that the servicer charged were inaccurate.
The review is free, so don’t let anyone persuade you that you have to pay for it. There is just one review process. Go to www.IndependentForeclosureReview.com for a list of the 14 mortgage servicers and for more information about the review and claim process. You can mail your request form or submit it online. To get the form online, you have to click on the link for your servicer. The company you sent your monthly mortgage payments to is your mortgage servicer. If you need help completing the form or if you have questions you can call 888-952-9105.
Put your request in. You really have nothing to lose and possibly something to gain.
Michelle Singletary: email@example.com.
Washington Post Writers Group