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New foreclosure settlement guidelines address dual-tracking, consumer complaints

1/21/2014, 6 a.m.
The court-assigned monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement told Maryland foreclosure prevention counselors recently that his office has issued rules ...

— The court-assigned monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement told Maryland foreclosure prevention counselors recently that his office has issued rules that should help address lingering consumer complaints against lenders, including the practice known as "dual-tracking."

"But here's the thing: it's just a tool. We need the help of people on the ground like you—people who understand this very complex process— to make it work," said Joseph A. Smith, Jr. during a fact-finding visit to DHCD's headquarters in Crownsville.

Meeting with about two dozen counselors from all over the state, Smith warned that funds for consumer relief under the two-year-old settlement "were almost complete. The rest is just blocking and tackling— making sure the lenders and servicers are in compliance."

Smith said the enforcement metrics, issued last fall, address the most persistent complaints from consumers and foreclosure counselors— including the complaint that consumers have a hard time identifying a single point of contact who is familiar with their account; and that the modification process— who gets approved for a loan modification and who doesn't— remains a mystery. The new rules also address dual tracking, where lenders continue to pursue a foreclosure while working with a homeowner or counselor. He said it could take another four months before his office can determine if the new rules are working.

Before meeting with the counselors, Secretary Skinner joined Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Mark Kaufman, Maryland commissioner of financial regulation, to provide an overview of the state's response to the foreclosure crisis.

Thanks to a robust commitment to foreclosure counseling, Maryland has been one of the most effective states at putting settlement funds to use on behalf of homeowners, the state officials said. Maryland homeowners have received more than $1.3 billion in relief through the settlement— more than neighboring Pennsylvania and Virginia combined. And the state ranks among the national leaders in the number of homeowners receiving relief under the Home Affordable Modification Program and the Home Affordable Refinance Program.

"Maryland put [settlement resources] money to really good use, which is a testament to the leadership here," said Smith.