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Waters Introduces Bill Calling for Mandatory Loss Mitigation

Mortgage servicing practices have taken center stage on Capitol Hill, with a flurry of bills being penned to make servicing reforms the law of the land.


""Rep. Maxine Waters"":http://waters.house.gov (D-California) has revised a bill she's brought to the table several times before that would compel lenders to engage in what she says are ""reasonable loss mitigation activities"" for all delinquent homeowners.

Waters has long maintained that the servicing industry is ""broken,"" a view that has become the popular opinion in light of the robo-signing scandal last fall that brought illegal foreclosure filings to light and prompted widespread investigations into industry practices.

Those investigations resulted in ""cease and desist orders"":http://dsnews.comarticles/regulators-hand-down-enforcement-actions-to-servicers-and-their-vendors-2011-04-13 issued last week to a handful of residential mortgage servicers. Monetary penalties and separate settlements with state attorneys general are forthcoming.

""In light of the slap of the wrist our regulators are preparing to give 14 servicers who admitted to breaking the law, legislation to require loss mitigation prior to foreclosure is needed now more than ever before,"" said Rep. Waters. ""It's the only way to protect homeowners and to prevent foreclosures.""

Waters has reintroduced an updated version of the Foreclosure Prevention and Sound Mortgage Servicing Act (H.R. 1567). It's legislation she says could be a step in the right direction for ending the foreclosure crisis and holding servicers accountable.


Rep. Waters' bill would require servicers to provide loss mitigation, including loan modifications, prior to initiating foreclosure actions.

The bill places one entity in charge of modifying primary and secondary liens and requires principal reduction for underwater mortgages.

A spokesperson from Waters' office explained that this ""one entity"" refers to the servicers/mortgagee of the first lien. For example, if a borrower has two mortgages, with the second being a subordinate lien, under Waters' legislation, the first lien holder would have primary responsibility for modifying both loans, with the second modified in proportion with the first.

According to Waters' office, the current protocol is that when first liens are modified, generally nothing happens to seconds; or first-lien holders will refuse to modify unless subordinate lien holders modify as well, and seconds hardly ever modify.

Waters' bill seeks to address this conflict of interest by ensuring both first and second mortgages are modified to create a more feasible debt situation for distressed homeowners.

The congresswoman says her bill would also address deep-seated problems in the mortgage servicing industry by prohibiting dual tracking, requiring a single point-of-contact, mandating referrals to housing counseling agencies, regulating fees, and prohibiting demand payments on short sales.

In introducing the bill, Congresswoman Waters acknowledged that the bill will be one of several in her push to tackle problems in the servicing industry.

""This bill is the first in a series of legislative proposals that I plan to introduce to further regulate the servicing industry and to protect homeowners,"" she said.

_[Editor's note: A copy of Waters' revised bill has not yet been logged in the congressional tracking system. Although her latest version has since been updated, a copy of the previously introduced legislation can be ""viewed here"":http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-3451. ]_

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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