Mortgage Servicing Settlement FAQs
Q: What is a mortgage servicer and how do I know who services my loan?
A: A mortgage servicer administers mortgage loans, including collecting and recording payments from borrowers. A servicer also handles loan defaults and foreclosures, and may offer loan modifications to assist delinquent borrowers. The company that you make your monthly payment to is your mortgage servicer. Your mortgage servicer may or may not be a lending institution and may or may not own your loan. Many of the loans administered by servicers are owned by third-party investors.
This settlement involves the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers and you may reach them at the websites and phone numbers below:
- Ally/GMAC: 800-766-4622
- Bank of America: 877-488-7814
- Citi: 866-272-4749
- JPMorgan Chase: 866-372-6901
- Wells Fargo: 800-288-3212
Loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are not impacted by this settlement. You may visit the following websites to learn if your loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac:
These sites will also include information about mortgage and foreclosure programs you may be eligible to access.
Q: How will I know whether this settlement affects my situation?
A: Because of the complexity of the mortgage market and this agreement, which will be performed over a three year period, borrowers will not immediately know if they are eligible for relief.
For loan modifications and refinance options, borrowers may be contacted directly by one of the five participating mortgage servicers. Chase and Citi have agreed to contact all eligible borrowers in New York State.
For borrowers who lost their home to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2011, a settlement administrator designated by the attorneys general will send claim forms to persons eligible for cash restitution.
Even if you are not contacted, if your loan is serviced by one of the five settling banks, you are encouraged to contact your servicer to see if you are eligible. In any event, borrowers may contact their mortgage servicer to obtain more information about specific loan modification programs and whether the borrower may be impacted by this settlement. You may reach them at the websites and phone numbers below:
- Ally/GMAC: 800-766-4622
- Bank of America: 877-488-7814
- Citi: 866-272-4749
- JPMorgan Chase: 866-372-6901
- Wells Fargo: 800-288-3212
More information will be made available here as the settlement programs are implemented. For more information on the proposed agreement:
Q: How does this settlement hold the banks accountable?
A: This is a settlement that primarily addresses the banks’ servicing of loans, including their handling of foreclosures. One of the primary areas of attention was the practice known as “robo-signing” where the banks submitted foreclosure documents that were not properly reviewed or notarized. This settlement holds the banks accountable for their servicing violations through substantial financial penalties and extensive consumer relief.
This is the second largest civil settlement ever obtained by the state attorneys general. The settlement will cost the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers, which control about 60 percent of the mortgage servicing market, an estimated $25 to $32 billion.
The settlement will require the banks to accomplish a massive undertaking – changing their broken system of servicing loans into one that is functional. The banks will reduce the principal on many of their loans – something that they have resisted for years – to allow homeowners to keep their homes. They will also refinance loans for “underwater” borrowers who have been unable to refinance due to negative equity. They will pay billions of dollars to the states, and, most importantly, commit billions more to consumers.
The banks will be subject to a federal court order enforceable by a federal judge. In addition, a special independent monitor will have the authority to oversee the banks and require their compliance. Federal agencies and state attorneys general can enforce compliance if there are violations.
The agreement holds the banks accountable for their wrongdoing on robo-signing and mortgage servicing. Just as important as what is in the settlement is what is not in the settlement.
When the New York Attorney General joined the multi-state negotiations with the banks in January of 2011, the banks wanted broad civil immunity from all legal claims related to the housing bubble and crash. He took a very hard line against letting anyone off the hook for conduct that took down the economy, and worked with his colleagues to change the terms of the settlement.
The final agreement preserves a wide range of claims for investigation and prosecution, including all criminal claims. The New York Attorney General’s Office is also proceeding with a lawsuit over MERS, the electronic mortgage registry company, as well as some of the biggest banks that created the system, charging that the MERS system resulted in a wide range of deceptive and fraudulent foreclosure filings. The New York Attorney General was also appointed by President Obama to co-chair a joint state and federal working group that includes the Department of Justice, the IRS, the SEC and other state and federal entities. The working group is building upon existing investigations, and launching new ones, related to misconduct in the packaging of mortgages into mortgage backed securities. We expect that we will be able to leverage these investigations to secure additional relief for a broader scope of loans than will be impacted by the servicing settlement.
Q: Will this settlement fix the entire mortgage industry breakdown?
A: No. This is a mortgage servicing settlement that addresses only a portion of the mortgage lending system. However, the settlement’s tough, new mortgage servicing standards will have a widespread impact on future mortgage loan servicing.
States and federal agencies that sign onto the agreement are not restricted from investigating and pursuing many other mortgage-related issues, including securities-related cases, criminal cases, and other matters connected to the mortgage crisis.
On January 27, 2012, the New York Attorney General, along with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami announced the formation of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. The working group will investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.
Q: Why settle these claims?
A: Litigation takes time, and many homeowners are in desperate need of relief now. This settlement balances the goal of immediate relief for those homeowners, with the need to hold banks accountable. This agreement delivers a down payment of $25 billion in short term relief, as well as improvements in the servicing and foreclosure procedures of the banks, while preserving a wide range of potential claims that may result in additional relief for homeowners in the future.
The settlement will provide immediate relief to homeowners across the state who are struggling. According to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates, New York is set to receive an estimated $548 million in the form of principal reductions, refinancing and direct payments to homeowners and former homeowners. In addition, New York will receive $130 million to pay for legal services and housing counseling to ensure New Yorkers are protected in the court system.
Q: What about mortgage holders not covered by this settlement?
A: This settlement primarily affects mortgages that are owned and held by the nation’s largest bank servicers. Those homeowners may receive benefits such as modifications, principal reductions or direct payments from lenders.
Two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, control a majority of the nation’s mortgage loans. GSE loans are not eligible for parts of this settlement because of positions their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Administrator (FHFA), has taken. The New York Attorney General believes that the GSEs will ultimately have to be brought to the table and offer significant principle reductions on loans in their portfolios to in order to reduce the amount of negative equity—over $700 billion—that is currently holding back the economy from a more robust recovery.
However, homeowners with GSE-controlled mortgages who won’t directly benefit from settlement-related programs will still see benefits through reduced foreclosures, stabilizing home values and significant new mortgage servicing standards and consumer protections.
This settlement, in addition to recent federal efforts to modify Freddie and Fannie loans, means that the majority of distressed borrowers might qualify for some level of help.
More information for homeowners is available at: www.ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/help-homeowners
Q: Will there be payments to foreclosure victims?
A: Yes. Approximately $1.5 billion of the settlement funds will be allocated to compensation to borrowers who were foreclosed on after January 1, 2008 and before Dec. 31, 2011. These borrowers will be notified of their right to file a claim. Borrowers who were not properly offered loss mitigation or who were otherwise improperly foreclosed on will be eligible for a uniform payment, which will be approximately $2000 per borrower depending on level of response. Borrowers who receive payments will not have to release any claims and will be free to seek additional relief in the courts. Borrowers may also be eligible for a separate restitution process administered by the federal banking regulators.
Q: What about those of us who keep making our mortgage payments?
A: Borrowers who are current in their payments but are “underwater” on their mortgages may qualify for refinancing relief under the settlement.
Beyond that, the mortgage servicers involved in this settlement broke the law, the conduct harmed borrowers, and this settlement addresses that conduct. If the mortgage servicers followed the law, many foreclosures likely could have been prevented. Foreclosure has a profound impact beyond the borrower and the creditor. A foreclosure affects homeowners, families, neighborhoods, communities, the housing market and our overall economy.
When a house is subject to foreclosure, it creates a ripple effect that lowers the value of nearby single-family homes and other properties. In 2009 the Center for Responsible Lending projected that homeowners living near foreclosed properties, on average, would lose $7,200 in property value, and projected a four-year increase in losses to $20,300 per household.
Foreclosures contribute to unstable family and social environments. They increase stress on homeowners, their families and their neighbors. These deteriorating, neglected properties and neighboring property value losses create neighborhood blight, cut a community’s tax base, and can contribute to crime. Displaced homeowners put other stresses on communities, including the need for shelter and social services.
Foreclosures affect everyone and affect our economy – even those who play by the rules and pay their monthly mortgage on time.
Q: Why force banks to forgive large portions of peoples’ loans?
A: The states and federal agencies established that the servicers have done wrong – through improper lending practices, improper foreclosures, etc. – and in response the banks have agreed to a settlement that helps many homeowners who have been hurt by misconduct in the marketplace.
It’s also the case that a loan entails risk for both the borrower and the lender. Every time a bank issued a mortgage during the housing bubble it took on the risk that housing prices would fall, and that in the event of a default on the mortgage, the bank would take a loss by being forced to sell the house for less than the value of the original mortgage. This happens every time a bank forecloses on an underwater borrower, and it is appropriate for both borrower and lender to suffer a loss when a loan defaults because the asset was overvalued in the first place. In fact, banks lose, on average, about $60,000 on each foreclosure, so principal reductions that reduce the likelihood of default actually benefit both the borrower and the lender. It is a win-win proposition for the banks to give up some principal – instead of that $60,000 cost of each foreclosure – and allow people to remain in their homes
Some banks have already acknowledged that principal reduction can be effective tool in stabilizing the housing market and have already been forgiving portions of some loans. The idea is to keep people in their homes. The huge number of foreclosures impacts all of us: our nest eggs erode, we may no longer borrow against our homes, and we can’t sell them when we need to. Principal reduction is one of the tools we’ve negotiated to help keep more people in their homes and help stabilize the housing market — which helps all of us.
Q: Will investors in mortgage-backed securities ultimately pay for part of this settlement?
A: This settlement will not force investors to incur losses. Participating banks own the vast majority of the mortgage loans that this settlement is expected to affect. The settlement could affect some investor-owned loans, but only with the consent of investors, or in cases where the investor’s original contract provided for the possibility of modification. Investors are not party to the settlement, and therefore nothing in the settlement can alter the contractual rights of investors.
When banks weigh which mortgage loans to modify as part of this settlement, they will do so based on first analyzing the costs and the benefits of minimizing their losses. If a loan modification, including principal reduction, is projected to cost the creditor or investor less than foreclosure, the creditor will earn more on that loan. In other words, this settlement will not force investors to incur losses. That’s because any loan modification tied to this settlement will result in more of a financial return for an investor than a foreclosure would.
Q: Will taxpayers ultimately pay for this settlement?
A: No, the settlement is funded by the banks, not taxpayers.
Q: If I have not yet been foreclosed, do I have to live in the house to be eligible for the Consumer Relief portion of the settlement?
A: No. To qualify for the Consumer Relief portion of the settlement, the home must be occupied but there is no requirement that the owner of the home be the occupant. This is different from past settlements.
Q: Why are you releasing the banks from some claims?
A: The release of claims relinquishes particular state and federal claims on issues addressed by the settlement. The release is narrow and is limited to mortgage servicing and origination claims. States that sign on may still pursue other claims against the banks, such as securities and securitization claims. States could also sue financial institutions that are not part of the settlement.
States that opt not to sign the agreement are free to pursue their own legal actions. However, those states would give up all the funds designated specifically for their state and its citizens who were foreclosure victims. Homeowners of those states would also only qualify for a significantly reduced amount of loan modification and other benefits being distributed as part of the settlement’s national programs.
The agreement does not affect any individual’s rights. A consumer may still bring an individual action, be a part of a class action, or seek further review/relief from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).
Q: Does this immunize banks from prosecution?
A: No. There’s no criminal immunity for the banks whatsoever. State attorneys general are using their civil law enforcement authority to fight for homeowners. They are not immunizing any individuals or institutions from prosecution. Criminal prosecutions are an entirely separate matter from a civil legal matter. This is a civil, not a criminal, settlement, and this settlement does not prevent state or federal prosecutions.
Q: How will this settlement protect consumers in the future?
A: The banks have agreed to major reforms in how they service mortgage loans. These new servicing standards require lenders and servicers to adhere to a long list of rights for those facing foreclosure. For example, borrowers will have the right to see all of their loan documents to make sure any potential foreclosure is legal; they will be given every opportunity to first modify their loan before facing foreclosure; lenders and servicers will be required to have an appropriate number of well-trained staff members to promptly respond to the needs of distressed borrowers; and finally, borrowers will have the right to deal with a reliable, single point of contact so they have access to a person from whom to obtain information throughout the process. This is very important because, throughout the foreclosure crisis, borrowers have lodged widespread complaints about their frustrations in trying to work with their lenders. They’ve complained about unresponsive employees, lost documents, and conflicting information.
Q: Why doesn’t this settlement deal with the banks’ conduct in securitizing loans?
A: This case began with robo-signing and was later expanded to foreclosure conduct and other mortgage servicing abuses. These are major, complex issues in themselves. What the state attorneys general have received in return for releasing claims on these matters is huge – billions in loan modifications and other benefits for borrowers who have been harmed as well as significant new protections for homeowners.
The New York Attorney General also launched a comprehensive investigation in to potential misconduct by bank in connection with the securitization of loans and how misconduct in the securitization process may have contributed to the housing bubble and the crash in the housing market. When the New York State Office of the Attorney General joined the multi-state negotiations with the banks in January of 2011, the banks wanted broad civil immunity from virtually all legal claims related to the housing bubble and crash. The New York Attorney General took a very hard line against letting anyone off the hook for conduct that took down the economy, including misconduct in the securitization process, and worked with his colleagues to change that aspect of the settlement.
The final settlement preserves a wide range of claims for investigation and prosecution, including civil claims related to securitization, and all criminal claims. The New York Attorney General is also proceeding with a lawsuit over MERS, the electronic mortgage registry company, as well as some of the biggest banks that created the system, charging that the MERS system resulted in a wide range of deceptive and fraudulent foreclosure filings. He was also appointed by President Obama to co-chair a joint state and federal working group that includes the Department of Justice, the IRS, the SEC and other state and federal entities. The working group is building upon existing investigations, and launching new ones, related to securitization.
Q: How can we be assured that the banks will comply with the new servicing standards?
A: This settlement is backed by a federal court order. State attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice can seek redress if the banks don’t follow the settlement terms.
The settlement also includes an independent monitor. The monitor, who will work from a strict set of objective measuring standards, will oversee the carrying out of this agreement and will report to the states and federal agencies on the banks’ compliance. There are significant penalties if the banks violate the court judgment. A court ordered settlement is very different from the voluntary, foreclosure prevention efforts that have been tried to date.
Q: How does this settlement affect members of the military?
A: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protections for active service members, including postponing or suspending certain civil obligations, such as mortgage payments and foreclosure. This settlement provides enhanced safeguards for military personnel that go beyond SCRA protections, including extending the window of protections for qualified service members, and not requiring service members to be delinquent to qualify for a short sale, loan modification, or other loss mitigation relief if the service member suffers financial hardship and is otherwise eligible for such loss mitigation.