NYT: Banks to Review Foreclosures

Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013 08:32 AM

By Glenn J. Kalinoski

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Banks accused of questionable foreclosure practices are being asked by the government to distribute billions to homeowners struggling to deal with the foreclosure process.

Regulators are attempting to accelerate the process after a flawed, independent foreclosure review delayed relief for millions of borrowers, The New York Times reported. Housing advocates are concerned that banks could take shortcuts in an attempt to end the costly process as they examine files for errors.

The decision to utilize the banks is the latest development in a review of more than four million foreclosures.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency last month scuttled the foreclosure review by independent consultants after being marred by “delays and inefficiency,” the Times reported. The regulator reached a multibillion-dollar settlement directly with the nation’s largest banks, including $3.6 billion in payments to aggrieved borrowers.

The first payments to homeowners are not expected until late March.

Banks will examine loan files to determine the worst possible errors. Military personnel illegally foreclosed on will rank highest on the list, the Times reported. Borrowers who might be current on their payments, and didn’t warrant a foreclosure, will be next.

The strategy presents potential conflicts of interest, according to the Times. Banks, in a rush to meet deadlines, could fail to provide an accurate portrayal of what went wrong.

“The whole process has been a slap in the face to homeowners and a slap on the wrist to banks,” said Isaac Simon Hodes, an organizer with the community group Lynn United for Change. “The latest development shows how there has been no accountability.”

Florida provides a painful example of the foreclosure crisis. More than six years after subprime lending and overbuilding led to the worst U.S. real estate slump, the state had the biggest increase in home seizures last year, and the highest foreclosure rate, RealtyTrac Inc. said last month.

One in every 32 Florida households received a notice of default, auction or repossession in 2012, more than double the average U.S. rate of one in 72, the Irvine, California-based data seller said in a report. Home repossessions increased by 16,276 during the year to 84,456, the biggest gain nationwide.

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