$9 billion in mortgage relief to Florida as banks complete settlement

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Kimberly Miller

Published March 23, 2014

The nation’s largest banks have completed their obligations under the National Mortgage Settlement, awarding $9.2 billion in relief to Florida homeowners, according to a report released Tuesday and the Florida attorney general’s office.

The landmark settlement, reached in February 2012 as a way for lenders to atone for foreclosure-related wrongs, helped 631,556 mortgage holders nationwide, including 120,000 in Florida.

National Mortgage Monitor Joseph Smith announced the banks’ compliance with the settlement. According to his report, more than $50.4 billion in gross dollar relief was provided to homeowners nationwide.

Because Florida got a special guarantee through the settlement that promised $4 billion in princpal reductions, loan modifications and refinances for underwater borrowers, a separate report measuring Florida’s compensation is expected in the next few weeks, according to the attorney general’s office.

“I am very encouraged by what we have accomplished so far but I realize that there are still many Floridians facing the loss of their family homes and struggling to get back on their feet,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. “My office will continue to work closely with these families and the settling banks to ensure full compliance with the settlement and that all required steps are taken to assist the families under the servicing standards of the settlement.”

Bondi was a lead negotiator on the settlement, which included Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citi.

Banks were allowed to meet their obligations by reducing loan amounts, approving short sales or deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure and completing refinances to reduce interest rate amounts.

Critics have long complained that short sales and deed-in-lieus were making up the bulk of the bank credits-actions that don’t keep struggling homeowners in their homes. But Tuesday’s report found that 52 percent of the total relief provided was in the form of debt reduction on either the first or second mortgage.

Bank of America cut $3.3 billion nationwide from primary mortgages, but gave $2.9 billion in relief through short sales and deeds-in-lieu.

There are still concerns that non-monetary requirements of the settlement are being ignored, such as restrictions on dual-tracking. Dual tracking is when a foreclosure continues on a homeowner when they are still in the process of negotiating a loan modification.