Massachusetts $318 million mortgage settlement has limited reach

A recent $318 million mortgage settlement between state attorneys general and five of the nation’s largest mortgage loan originators have some Massachusetts homeowners applying for financial relief. The agreement is supposed to split the settlement amount between current and past Massachusetts homeowners, however most of them will not see any of it, according to the report.

One main caveat is that the settlement only affects mortgages that are wholly owned by the five largest banks: Bank of America, Citi, GMAC, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not qualify and are not included in this settlement. According to the report the majority of the money, roughly two-thirds is targeted at homeowners who are behind in their mortgage payments and are currently in foreclosure.

There will still be foreclosures, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, but the hope is this will provide real relief in the form of monthly payment modifications that will help some homeowners avoid foreclosure. A small part of the settlement will also help some homeowners who are making their payments but owe more than their home is worth by allowing them to refinance at a lower rate.

Some critics of the deal wanted all mortgages included in the settlement and think banks are getting off easy. But Attorney General Martha Coakley stated she did not want to wait another two years in litigation to get relief for some Massachusetts homeowners, so she agreed to settle the lawsuit. She said she still plans to pursue a lawsuit against mortgage servicing agencies used by these five banks and hopes to pressure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to modify loans they hold as well.

The mortgage crisis has been a nightmare for many homeowners trying to figure out where they can find relief within the various federal and state programs. Navigating mortgage law and refinancing in today’s lending environment can be difficult without the help of a residential real estate attorney to walk you through it.

Source: 90.9 WBUR Boston’s NPR News Station, “Mass. Mortgage Settlement A ‘Good Start’ Despite Limited Reach,” Curt Nickisch, Feb. 10, 2012