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Lawmakers Move to Make Servicing Reforms Law

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are seeking to legislate changes to servicing practices.


On the heels of the ""cease and desist orders issued"":http://dsnews.comarticles/regulators-hand-down-enforcement-actions-to-servicers-and-their-vendors-2011-04-13 by federal regulators to 14 mortgage servicers and two of their service providers to address process deficiencies uncovered by robo-signing investigations, four bills have been introduced aimed at reforming the way delinquent homeowners are handled industry-wide.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Maryland) was joined by more than 20 original co-sponsors in introducing the ""Preserving Homes and Communities Act of 2011"":http://www.congress.gov/cgi-lis/bdquery/D?d112,d111:1:./temp/~bdlRsD:dbs=y:|/billsumm/billsumm.php| (H.R.1477).

Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), has authored a companion bill (S.489), which has nine cosponsors in the Senate.

The lawmakers say the bills would make ""major changes"" to the mortgage servicing and foreclosure process including:

* Requiring lenders and servicers to evaluate homeowners for modifications prior to initiating foreclosure, and to offer approved modifications to qualified homeowners.
* Eliminating the ""dual tracking"" scenario in which borrowers are evaluated for a loan modification while foreclosure proceedings are advanced.
* Requiring servicers, if they deny a modification, to prove that they actually have the legal right to foreclose.


* Placing limits on the manner in which foreclosure-related fees can be charged.
* Creating an appeals process for those homeowners who are denied a loan modification.

""The foreclosure crisis and the alleged fraudulent activities by mortgage servicers continue to cost millions their shot at the American Dream,"" said Rep. Cummings. ""We are confronting a fundamentally broken system, and with millions more homes on the brink of foreclosure, Congress must take action.""

Cummings added, ""This legislation will increase consumer protections, level the playing field at the bargaining table, and hold banks and servicers accountable for providing relief to qualified homeowners.""

Separately, Rep. Brad Miller (D-North Carolina) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced bills in their respective chambers â€" by the name of the ""Foreclosure Fraud and Homeowner Abuse Prevention Act of 2011"":http://brown.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/FFHAPA%20Explanation1.pdf -- that they say would overhaul the mortgage servicing industry by realigning servicer incentives so that they act in the best interests of investors and homeowners.

According to a statement from the lead sponsors, their bills would:

* Protect homeowners from servicer errors, miscommunications, and abusive fees.
* End the rush to foreclosure and require servicers to work with homeowners to find sustainable mortgages.
* Improve standards for staffing and casework by mortgage servicers.
* Protect the interests of investors who buy securities backed by residential mortgages.
* Reform oversight of pools of securitized mortgages.

""It is clear that the current system isn't working and unfortunately federal regulators have failed to bring meaningful reform to the mortgaging servicing,"" said Sen. Brown. ""Ending the foreclosure mill requires stronger oversight, streamlined modification procedures, and meaningful penalties when servicers break the law.""

All four bills are endorsed by a host of consumer advocacy groups.

About Author: Carrie Bay

Carrie Bay is a freelance writer for DS News and its sister publication MReport. She served as online editor for DSNews.com from 2008 through 2011. Prior to joining DS News and the Five Star organization, she managed public relations, marketing, and media relations initiatives for several B2B companies in the financial services, technology, and telecommunications industries. She also wrote for retail and nonprofit organizations upon graduating from Texas A&M University with degrees in journalism and English.

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