California to Receive $18 Billion in Mortgage Settlement

On February 9, 2012 Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that California secured up to $18 billion for its distressed homeowners as part of a $25 billion national multistate settlement with the country’s five largest loan servicers. More than $12 billion will be used to offer short sales or write down loans over the next three years for about 250,000 underwater homeowners in California, according to the attorney general. Relief will go to areas hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis within the first year of the settlement.

Although the actual settlement has not yet been released, the attorney general has stated that other financial benefits for California include $849 million for refinancing 28,000 borrowers who are underwater but current on their payments; $279 million restitution for 140,000 homeowners who were foreclosed upon between 2008 and 2011; $1.1 billion for unemployed homeowners, transitional assistance, and repairing blight; $3.5 billion to extinguish unpaid loans that remain after foreclosure for 32,000 homeowners; and $430 million to the state attorney general’s office for costs and fees. As part of a California guarantee, if the lenders fail to reduce principal balances by a minimum of $12 billion, they will be required to pay fines up to $800 million to the state.

The loans involved in this settlement are those owned or serviced by Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial Inc. The settlement releases the five named lenders from certain federal and state claims pertaining to robo-signing and other foreclosure misconduct by the lenders. It does not affect any individual’s rights to bring legal action against a lender. It also does not apply to the majority of mortgage loans, which are those owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

This mortgage settlement does not change any homeowner’s existing financial relationship with a settling lender. It does not relieve homeowners from any obligation. It does not require a settling lender to stop any foreclosure.

Homeowners seeking relief under the settlement agreement should contact their loan servicer or a HUD-approved housing counselor. More information including detailed FAQs is also available from the California Attorney General’s website, or visit the National Mortgage Settlement website.

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