News: FTC Bans Upfront Loan Modification Fees

On November 19, 2010, in Message/News Board, Real Estate, by Robbie L. Vaughn, Esq.

The following is from the website of the Federal Trade Commission:

FTC Issues Final Rule to Protect Struggling Homeowners from Mortgage Relief Scams

Rule Outlaws Advance Fees and False Claims, Requires Clear Disclosures

Homeowners will be protected by a new Federal Trade Commission rule that bans providers of mortgage foreclosure rescue and loan modification services from collecting fees until homeowners have a written offer from their lender or servicer that they decide is acceptable.

“At a time when many Americans are struggling to pay their mortgages, peddlers of so-called mortgage relief services have taken hundreds of millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of homeowners without ever delivering results,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. “By banning providers of these services from collecting fees until the customer is satisfied with the results, this rule will protect consumers from being victimized by these scams.”

The FTC is issuing the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule to protect distressed homeowners from mortgage relief scams that have sprung up during the mortgage crisis. Bogus operations falsely claim that, for a fee, they will negotiate with the consumer’s mortgage lender or servicer to obtain a loan modification, a short sale, or other relief from foreclosure. Many of these operations pretend to be affiliated with the government and government housing assistance programs. The FTC has brought more than 30 cases against operations like these, and state and federal law enforcement partners have brought hundreds more.

Advance fee ban

The most significant consumer protection under the FTC’s new rule is the advance fee ban. Under this provision, mortgage relief companies may not collect any fees until they have provided consumers with a written offer from their lender or servicer that the consumer decides is acceptable, and a written document from the lender or servicer describing the key changes to the mortgage that would result if the consumer accepts the offer. The companies also must remind consumers of their right to reject the offer without any charge.

Disclosures

The Rule requires mortgage relief companies to disclose key information to consumers to protect them from being misled and to help them make better informed purchasing decisions. In their advertising and in communications directed at individual consumers (such as telemarketing calls), the companies must disclose that:

  • they are not associated with the government, and their services have not been approved by the government or the consumer’s lender;
  • the lender may not agree to change the consumer’s loan; and
  • if companies tell consumers to stop paying their mortgage, they must also tell them that they could lose their home and damage their credit rating.

Companies also must explain in their communications to consumers that they can stop doing business with the company at any time, can accept or reject any offer the company obtains from the lender or servicer, and, if they reject the offer, they don’t have to pay the company’s fee. The companies also must disclose the amount of the fee.

Prohibited claims

The MARS Rule prohibits mortgage relief companies from making any false or misleading claims about their services, including claims about:

  • the likelihood of consumers getting the results they seek;
  • the company’s affiliation with government or private entities;
  • the consumer’s payment and other mortgage obligations;
  • the company’s refund and cancellation policies;
  • whether the company has performed the services it promised;
  • whether the company will provide legal representation to consumers;
  • the availability or cost of any alternative to for-profit mortgage assistance relief services;
  • the amount of money a consumer will save by using their services; or
  • the cost of the services.

In addition, the rule bars mortgage relief companies from telling consumers to stop communicating with their lenders or servicers. Companies also must have reliable evidence to back up any claims they make about the benefits, performance, or effectiveness of the services they provide.

Attorney exemption

Attorneys are generally exempt from the rule if they meet three conditions: they are engaged in the practice of law, they are licensed in the state where the consumer or the dwelling is located, and they are complying with state laws and regulations governing attorney conduct related to the rule. To be exempt from the advance fee ban, attorneys must meet a fourth requirement – they must place any fees they collect in a client trust account and abide by state laws and regulations covering such accounts.

All provisions of the rule except the advance-fee ban will become effective December 29, 2010. The advance-fee ban provisions will become effective January 31, 2011.

Read the entire Press Release here.

Forensic Mortgage Loan Audits

On July 5, 2010, in Foreclosure, by Robbie L. Vaughn, Esq.

Forensic Loan Auditors: Are they helping or hurting struggling homeowners?

A Forensic Loan Auditor,  purportedly, reviews your mortgage loan documents to determine whether your mortgage lender violated any state or federal mortgage lending laws when they funded your loan.

We always wondered if these outfits were really helping homeowners. We couldn’t quite figure out how just finding problems with the loan documents, and not actually using that information to defend the foreclosure, was helping homeowners.

Well, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a released a consumer alert, Forensic Mortgage Loan Audit Scams: A New Twist on Foreclosure Rescue Fraud, which states that these mortgage audits are “the latest foreclosure rescue scam to exploit financially strapped homeowners…” The alert goes on to state the following:

In exchange for an upfront fee of several hundred dollars, so-called forensic loan auditors, mortgage loan auditors, or foreclosure prevention auditors backed by forensic attorneys offer to review your mortgage loan documents to determine whether your lender complied with state and federal mortgage lending laws. The “auditors” say you can use the audit report to avoid foreclosure, accelerate the loan modification process, reduce your loan principal, or even cancel your loan.

Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the FTC and its law enforcement partners:

  • there is no evidence that forensic loan audits will help you get a loan modification or any other foreclosure relief, even if they’re conducted by a licensed, legitimate and trained auditor, mortgage professional or lawyer.
  • some federal laws allow you to sue your lender based on errors in your loan documents. But even if you sue and win, your lender is not required to modify your loan simply to make your payments more affordable.
  • if you cancel your loan, you will lose your home and you will have to return the money you borrowed to your lender.

It is our standard practice, as foreclosure defense attorneys, to review ALL documents relating to the purchase and possible foreclosure of your home for potential defenses. We often find ourselves, due to no fault of our own, reviewing and drafting hundreds of pages in a short period of time.  This is very  labor intensive work, but we take pride in stopping unnecessary foreclosures and providing our clients with an opportunity to remain in their home.

As always, The Foreclosure Defense Law Firm of VAUGHN & WEBER, PLLC is here to assist you.  We are conveniently located in the heart of Nassau County, Long Island, NY.  Contact us at (516) 858-2620 to arrange a consultation with a foreclosure defense attorney.

Please visit our Foreclosure category to learn more about foreclosure issues.

Click here to read the entire Consumer Alert: Forensic Mortgage Loan Audit Scams: A New Twist on Foreclosure Rescue Fraud.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. This website is Attorney Advertising. It does not form an attorney-client relationship. We are a debt relief agency and a law firm that helps people file for bankruptcy relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code – Title 11. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Proudly assisting residents of Long Island, Nassau county, Suffolk county, New York City, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan