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FHFA Orders Paperwork Fixes but Insists Foreclosures Should Proceed

The ""Federal Housing Finance Agency"":http://www.fhfa.gov (FHFA), which oversees the nation's two largest mortgage financiers, has issued a directive outlining specific steps servicers should take to identify and correct potential deficiencies in foreclosure paperwork.

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Recent widespread reports of so-called robo-signers shuffling foreclosure cases out the door without following procedure threatens to derail the already tenuous housing recovery.

Evidence of overburdened, often careless, servicing staff cutting corners to process foreclosures quickly has stirred an angry chorus of lawmakers, consumer advocates, and the entire general public â€" all screaming for an immediate moratorium on foreclosures. But FHFA says bringing the process to a complete halt is not the answer.

""Delays in foreclosures add cost and other burdens for communities, investors, and taxpayers,"" said Edward J. DeMarco, FHFA's acting director. ""For Enterprise [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] loans, delay means that taxpayers must continue to support the Enterprises' financing of mortgages without the benefit of payment and neighborhoods are left with more vacant properties.""

DeMarco's policy statement issued Wednesday is aligned with White House ""officials' declared stance"":http://dsnews.comarticles/administration-officials-reject-idea-of-national-foreclosure-moratorium-2010-10-11 regarding a nationwide freeze on foreclosures.

""In the absence of identified process problems, foreclosures on mortgages for which the borrower has stopped payment, and for which foreclosure alternatives have been unsuccessful, should proceed without delay,"" DeMarco said.

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DeMarco has ordered ""Fannie Mae"":http://www.fanniemae.com and ""Freddie Mac"":http://www.freddiemac.com to implement a new policy framework with their mortgage servicers that outlines specific steps to detect and correct foreclosure paperwork errors.

""This framework envisions an orderly and expeditious resolution of foreclosure process issues that will provide greater certainty to homeowners, lenders, investors, and communities alike,"" DeMarco said.

The ""GSEs' new policy"":http://www.fhfa.gov/webfiles/18695/Servicerstatementandframework101310.pdf for addressing potential documentation deficiencies in foreclosure actions says mortgage servicers _must_ review their processes and procedures and verify that _all documents_, including affidavits and verifications, are completed in compliance with legal requirements.

At all stages of the process â€" pre-judgment, prior to foreclosure sale, post-sale eviction, REO sale, as well as in bankruptcy cases â€" servicers are instructed to confirm that the information contained in affidavits for the foreclosure proceeding was correct and that the affidavits were completed in compliance with applicable law.

If any documentation is found to be lacking, servicers must work with a foreclosure counsel to take the appropriate action to correct the issue, whether that's preparing and filing a ""replacement affidavit,"" ratifying the court's previous judgment, or ensuring title insurance is available on subject properties.

""The country's housing finance system remains fragile and I intend to maintain our focus on addressing this issue in a manner that is fair to delinquent households, but also fair to servicers, mortgage investors, neighborhoods and most of all, is in the best interest of taxpayers and housing markets,"" DeMarco said.

Both ""Fannie Mae"":http://www.fanniemae.com/newsreleases/2010/5184.jhtml?p=Media&s=News+Releases and ""Freddie Mac"":http://www.freddiemac.com/news/archives/corporate/2010/20101013_foreclosure.html have issued their own statements in full support of DeMarco’s directive.

“These principles will further protect borrowers’ rights and help rebuild the integrity of the foreclosure process,” said Bruce Witherell, Freddie’s COO. “It is critical that servicers quickly identify and remedy process problems in order to avoid costly delays and help restore public confidence in the housing market.”

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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