Wells Fargo Computer Glitch Blamed as Hundreds Lose Their Homes

CBS News | December 4, 2018 Wells Fargo says a computer glitch is partly to blame for an error affecting an estimated 545 customers who lost their homes. The giant bank filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month, revealing it incorrectly denied 870 loan modification requests. About 60 percent of those homeowners went into foreclosure. Read more here.

Attorney general sues over mortgage scam costing 21 Pennsylvania homeowners $280,000

July 27, 2018 | The Morning Call         Five Pennsylvania mortgage foreclosure companies face a lawsuit from the state attorney general’s office over a yearslong mortgage scam that allegedly cost 21 homeowners more than $280,000.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the lawsuit Thursday, alleging the companies deceived the complainants into signing mortgage modification contracts, many with hefty upfront payments, and never delivered promised services. Some customers, Shapiro said, lost their homes to foreclosure.  Read more here.

Royal Bank of Scotland Reaches $500 Million Settlement with New York Over Mortgage Securities

March 6, 2018  |  CNBC         Royal Bank of Scotland Group has reached a $500 million settlement with New York state to resolve claims over its sale of risky residential mortgage-backed securities that contributed to the 2008 global financial crisis.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday said the accord includes a $100 million cash payment to the state, plus $400 million of consumer relief for homeowners and communities.

Schneiderman said RBS admitted to having sold investors residential mortgage-backed securities that did not meet underwriting guidelines, contrary to its representations, and did not comply with applicable laws and regulations.  Link to article here.

Mortgage Lender PHH Agrees to Pay $74 Million Settlement

Associated Press via Houston Chronicle | August 11, 2017              MINNEAPOLIS - Federal prosecutors in Minnesota say PHH Corp. and two subsidiaries have agreed to pay over $74 million to settle allegations they violated standards for underwriting government-backed mortgages.

Acting U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Gregory Brooker said Tuesday that Mount Laurel, N.J.-based PHH submitted defective loans for government insurance, and that homeowners and taxpayers paid the price.

The government said it incurred "substantial losses" in paying insurance claims on Federal Housing Administration loans. About $9 million will go to a whistleblower who formerly worked for PHH.

PHH says it settled without admitting liability to avoid the distraction and expense of litigation.  Article here.

The Shame of the Mortgage-Interest Deduction

It’s not just a failure of housing policy. It's a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the American tax code.

 

The Atlantic | May 14, 2017        It might be one of the most important policies in the U.S. economy, but the mortgage-interest deduction sounds esoteric to most people. Perhaps that’s because, for most people, it’s completely irrelevant.

Although about two-thirds of American households own a home, only one-quarter of them claim the deduction, which sometimes gets abbreviated to MID. As Matthew Desmond, a sociologist at Harvard University, explains in a magisterial essay on the MID in the New York Times Magazine, this little fact has played an outsized role in the United States’ yawning wealth inequality.

Federal housing policy transfers lots of money to rich homeowners, a bit less to middle-class homeowners, and practically nothing to poor renters. Half of all poor American families who rent spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs. In May, rental income as a share of GDP hit an all-time high. Meanwhile, in 2015, the federal government spent $71 billion on the MID, and households earning more than $100,000 receive almost 90 percent of the benefits. Since the value of the deduction rises as the cost of one’s mortgage increases, the policy essentially pays upper-middle-class and rich households to buy larger and more expensive homes. At the same time, because national housing policy’s benefits don’t accumulate as much to renters, it makes it harder for poor renters to join the class of homeowners.  Read more here.

Mortgage Delinquencies Among Some Homeowners Just Spiked, Spelling Trouble

CNBC | February 15, 2017         A troublesome signal just appeared in the housing market and could put taxpayers at risk.

Federal Housing Administration mortgage delinquencies jumped in the fourth quarter for the first time since 2006, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday. The FHA insures low down-payment loans and is a favorite among first-time homebuyers.

The seasonally adjusted FHA delinquency rate increased to 9.02 percent in the fourth quarter from 8.3 percent in the third quarter, MBA data show. The jump, which followed the lowest delinquency rate since 1997, was driven by loans made since 2014 and early-stage delinquencies, those just 30 days past due.

It's too soon to know if it is a blip or a trend, but the jolt is clearly a warning.   Read more here.

Fannie, Freddie Replace HAMP with New Foreclosure Prevention Program

HousingWire | December 14, 2016        Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced on Wednesday their replacement for the Home Affordable Modification Program. The government sponsored enterprises revealed the Flex Modification foreclosure prevention program, which is designed to help America’s families by offering reductions to their monthly mortgage payments.

The government's Home Affordable Modification Program is slated to end on Dec. 31, 2016, concluding a seven-year government program designed to save struggling homeowners who are behind on their mortgage, or in danger of imminent default due to financial hardship.

HAMP’s sibling, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, which was created at the same time, was extended in August until Sept. 30, 2017 in order to create a smoother transition period for a new refinance product. 

“The new Flex Modification announced by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) today was designed based on lessons learned from crisis-era loan modification programs to help borrowers stay in their homes and avoid foreclosures whenever possible,” the FHFA said in a statement.   Read more here.

 

Foreclosure Cash For Keys Not Taxable As Service Income

Forbes | November 21, 2016       Sometimes it seems the IRS is kicking people when they are done.  That is how I saw the case of Karl Bobo who was in Tax Court over a deficiency of $7,175 for the year 2012.

CASH FOR KEYS

The case is about the proper tax treatment of “cash for keys” programs.  Elizabeth Weintraub explains how the programs work in Cash for Keys for Homeowners in Foreclosure.

"Cash for keys is a way for homeowners in foreclosure — or tenants living in foreclosed homes — to receive cash in exchange for surrendering the keys and vacating the property. A bank generally reaches an agreement with the occupants of a foreclosed home, which requires the home to be cleaned and left in good condition. The agreement typically sets forth a specific date that the home will be vacated, including a promise from the occupants that they will not: Vandalize the home – Strip the home of light fixtures, appliance or copper – Leave pets behind."

Read more here:

New Rules Aim to Protect Widowed Homeowners from Foreclosure

Los Angeles Times |  August 5, 2016    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued new rules aimed at protecting widowed homeowners from a red-tape nightmare that has caused them to lose their homes to foreclosure.

The regulations, announced Thursday, generally give surviving spouses who are not on a mortgage note the same protections borrowers have. Those include a ban on so-called dual tracking in which mortgage servicers negotiate with clients to modify a mortgage while simultaneously pursuing foreclosure.

The rules, which expand and clarify existing guidance from the agency, were long awaited by consumer groups that are pushing similar regulations in a pending California Senate bill.

Those advocates say survivors — who already owned their homes or inherit them after a death — face considerable resistance from servicers when they seek loan modifications after losing their spouse’s income.  Read more here.

Agencies Release White Paper on Future of Foreclosure Prevention

ABA Banking Journal | July 25, 2016     In a white paper released today, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Finance Agency outlined five principles to guide the creation of future foreclosure prevention programs. With many of the crisis-era homeowner assistance programs winding down at the end of 2016, the agencies said that accessibility, affordability, sustainability transparency and accountability should guide the development of new loss mitigation programs and encouraged investors and servicers to collaborate on developing and implementing new initiatives.

“With the retirement of [the Making Home Affordable program], the industry will shoulder more responsibility for assisting struggling homeowners through proprietary modifications and other loss mitigation programs,” the white paper said. “One of the important things we have learned from the crisis-era efforts is that a collaborative process results in better outcomes for all stakeholders. That lesson should not be forgotten as the industry takes a more prominent role in defining the future of loss mitigation.”  Read more here.