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Frequently Asked Questions

Links to topics below:

Overview

What does the settlement mean for me?

The Attorney General has obtained a broad-ranging settlement from five major banks. If you are a homeowner struggling to pay your mortgage or facing foreclosure, or if you have already lost your home to foreclosure, it is possible that this settlement could help you. Not every homeowner will qualify for relief under this settlement. Those who do qualify may receive various forms of relief depending on their circumstances. Available forms of relief include: payments to borrowers who were wrongly foreclosed upon; reduction of unpaid principal balances; refinancing for borrowers whose homes are worth less than the money they owe; and the opportunity for short sales and other relocation assistance.

Is my bank a part of the settlement?

The Attorney General has reached a settlement with the following five banks: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Ally Financial. Several of these banks are also known by other trade names, including Countrywide (a trade name for Bank of America); Washington Mutual and EMC Mortgage (Chase); CitiMortgage (Citibank); Wachovia (Wells Fargo); and GMAC (Ally Financial).

Is this settlement another government bailout of the banks?

No. It is a legal settlement between banks and the California Attorney General. The settlement is intended to provide relief to Californians who are struggling to pay their mortgages or who have lost their homes to foreclosure.

How do I get a copy of the settlement agreement?

The settlement agreement will not be posted until it has been filed as a consent judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The filing date has not been determined. Please continue to check the National Mortgage Settlement website.

Relief for Homeowners

I am a homeowner facing foreclosure. Am I eligible for relief under the settlement?

You may be eligible for relief. In order to qualify, you must have a mortgage that is owned or serviced by a settling bank. If your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, different considerations may apply. (See below.) The “servicer” and the “owner” of your mortgage may be the same company or they may be two different companies. It is important that you know the names of both the servicer of your loan and the owner of your loan so that you can determine if you are eligible.

The “owner” of your mortgage receives the payments that you make. The “servicer” collects your payments, sends you monthly statements, answers your questions and otherwise communicates with you about your loan. The following explanation may help clarify the distinction between owner and servicer. Generally, a bank lends you money to buy your home. Once you have started making payments, it may sell your mortgage loan to an outside investor. In such a case, the bank may continue to collect your monthly payments and communicate with you about your mortgage. However, the investor has a right to the proceeds of the loan. In this arrangement, your bank is now the “servicer” of your loan, while the investor “owns” the loan. Over the life of your loan, other banks or financial institutions may become the servicer for your loan and the loan can be sold to other investors.

If you have a mortgage that is either owned or serviced by a settling bank, you may be eligible for relief under the settlement and should contact your servicer to determine what options are available in your case.

How can I find out who owns or services my mortgage loan?

On your monthly mortgage statement, look for a contact phone number to ask who services or owns your mortgage loan. There are also tools on the Internet that may help you to find this information. You may be able to learn the name of your servicer through an online database known as the MERS registry. Not all loans are included in the registry, but searching it is free. You can search for your loan’s servicer by going online to MERS® Servicer Identification. You can also use the Internet to find out if your loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Most loans in the United States are owned by these two companies. Both of them provide online search tools so you can determine if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owns your mortgage.

I am a homeowner worried about the prospect of foreclosure and my loan owner or servicer is part of the settlement. What forms of possible relief are available under the settlement?

The settlement provides two main types of loan modifications for qualifying homeowners: principal write-downs and refinancing in order to make your monthly mortgage payment more affordable. In the case of a principal write-down, the bank reduces the unpaid principal balance of your loan so that your monthly payments are reduced to an affordable level. In the case of a refinance, the length of the loan may change and/or the interest rate will be reduced so that your monthly payments are reduced to an affordable level. If a principal write-down or refinancing arrangement will not be enough to make your mortgage affordable, there are other options available under the settlement, including help with short sales and relocation assistance. You should contact your servicer with questions about which relief you are eligible for and what options best fit your goals.

Do I qualify for a refinance under the settlement?

To qualify for a refinance under the settlement, your loan must be serviced and owned by one of the settling banks. You must also be current on your mortgage and have no delinquencies within the past 12 months. You must also be underwater and your interest rate must be at least 5.25 percent. Unfortunately, the following types of loans are excluded from the refinance program: FHA Loans, VA Loans, and loans on manufactured homes. In addition, if you have been in bankruptcy in the last 24 months or have been in foreclosure in the last 24 months, you are ineligible.

Do I have to be delinquent and/or underwater on my mortgage in order to qualify for the settlement?

In order to qualify for a principal write-down, your loan must be otherwise eligible and the value of your unpaid principal balance must be higher than the current market value of your home. You also must have either missed a mortgage payment or be imminently at risk of doing so.

I have already been denied for a loan modification previously. Should I reapply for a loan modification under the terms of the settlement?

Yes. If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, you should contact your servicer to determine if you are eligible for a loan modification.

I already have a modification for my loan, but I am still having difficulty making payments or have already missed payments under the terms of the modified loan. Should I reapply for a new modification under the terms of the settlement?

Yes. If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, you should contact your servicer to determine if you are eligible for a loan modification.

The bank has already begun the foreclosure process on my home. Will this settlement stop the foreclosure?

The settlement does not mandate that the settling banks stop all foreclosures. As part of the settlement, here are new servicing standards that create important limitations on what foreclosure actions the bank can take while you are pursuing a loan modification. For more information, please visit the nationwide settlement’s website.

You can file a complaint with the California Attorney General’s Office by sending a letter with copies of any supporting documentation to the:

Office of the Attorney General
Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

or you can file a complaint online.

If I do not want to keep my home, and/or I do not think there is any way for me to obtain an affordable payment, does this settlement have anything to help me sell it without a foreclosure?

Yes. As part of the settlement, the banks may write down balances or provide principal reductions to facilitate a short sale of your home. Contact your servicer for additional information.

I do not think I will be able to keep my home. If I am not interested in a short sale, or I do not think there is a market for my home, can the settlement provide me with any help?

Yes. You may qualify for a deed in lieu of foreclosure or participate in programs such as cash for keys, in which the bank will provide a small transitional payment in exchange for you turning over your house in good order without requiring a legal eviction process.

If my mortgage is serviced, but not owned, by one of the settling banks, am I eligible for relief (such as a loan modification or principal reduction) under the settlement?

You probably do not qualify for relief under the settlement unless the investor for the loan or the owner of the loan agrees to allow it to be modified. However, other options may be available to you. We suggest that you call HUD at (800) 569-4287 to speak with a housing counselor regarding your circumstances.

I previously had a mortgage with one of the settling banks. My mortgage is now owned by another bank. Am I still eligible for principal reduction and/or a loan modification?

If the mortgage was sold to a bank participating in the settlement, you may be eligible. Individual eligibility is very dependant on the borrower’s particular circumstances (e.g., employment status, income, previous failed modifications, affordability even with reductions, loan to value, etc.).

If one of the settling banks services a loan for a private investor and the private investor for that particular loan has agreed to allow it to be modified, then you may be eligible.

If the mortgage was sold to a servicer who is not participating in the settlement, and the owner of the loan has not agreed to allow it to be modified, then you do not qualify for relief under the settlement. However, other options may be available to you. We suggest that you call HUD at (800) 569-4287 to speak with a housing counselor.

I contacted my mortgage company to see about getting a loan balance and rate reduction. I was told that since I am not behind on my payments and can still make the payments that I don't qualify. Why am I being discriminated against just because I have been doing the right thing?

This settlement is not intended to fix every issue in the home mortgage industry and is directed at a specific subset. Homeowners who are current on their payments and also underwater (owe more than value of home) may be eligible to apply for a refinance loan or other relief under the settlement in certain circumstances, if the loan is actually owned—not just serviced—by one of the settling parties.

What is the difference between the prior settlement agreement with Wachovia/Wells Fargo Bank and the new national settlement agreement with Wells Fargo Bank? Do I qualify for both?

The prior settlement related solely to pay-option ARM loans originated by Wachovia and World Savings. The new agreement is broader and relates to a broader class of loans. A consumer might qualify for relief under both settlement, but it will depend on his or her specific circumstances.

What is the difference between the prior settlement agreement with Countrywide/Bank of America and the new national settlement agreement with Bank of America? Do I qualify for both?

The prior settlement related to subprime and pay-option mortgage loans with an initial due date between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2007 originated with Countrywide, which was purchased by Bank of America. The new agreement is broader and relates to a broader class of loans. A consumer might qualify for relief under both settlements, but it will depend on his or her specific circumstances.

Does this settlement apply only to my primary residence?

Yes.

I am concerned about the tax implications of a mortgage modification and/or principal reduction. What do I do if my lender sends me a 1099-C?

Information is available from the California Franchise Tax Boardand the Internal Revenue Service. In addition, you should consult with a tax advisor or attorney about your particular situation.

Relief After Foreclosure

I already lost my home to foreclosure. Am I eligible for any relief under the settlement?

As part of the settlement, a cash payment was available for some Californians whose loan was owned or serviced by Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank or GMAC and whose home was foreclosed upon between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011. However, please be advised that the deadline to file a claim was January 18, 2013 and claims are no longer being accepted. If you have questions, you may call the Settlement Administrator at 1-866-430-8358.

I lost my home to foreclosure. I want to know if I am eligible for the settlement, but I do not know the name of my servicer or provider. How can I find out?

Look for any records from when you purchased your home. In those records, you should look for the name of the bank that you borrowed money from for the purchase of your home. If you cannot find those records, you should visit your county recorder’s office and ask to see what banks or financial services companies recorded deeds of trust against your property or which banks or companies recorded a notice of default or notice of sale. Once you have the names of these banks or companies, call their information number and ask them who the servicer or owner of your mortgage was.

I lost my home already, but the bank claims I still owe it money. Is there anything in this settlement that helps me?

Yes. As part of the settlement, the banks may write down balances on so-called deficiency judgments. If you have such a judgment, you should contact your servicer.

If I lost a home that was not my primary residence through foreclosure, am I still eligible for a settlement payment under this settlement?

No. Only borrowers who lost their primary residence through foreclosure will be eligible for settlement payments

If I lost more than one home, do I get restitution for each one?

In general, borrowers will only receive one payment.

When will the settlement checks be mailed?

We anticipate that checks will be mailed in early June 2013.

I lost my home to foreclosure and received my settlement payment. I am unhappy with the dollar amount. Is there anything I can do?

The settlement payment is not intended to compensate you for the loss of your home. You are not required to give up your legal rights to participate in this settlement. You may also wish to consult a private attorney for advice about any other legal claims you may have.

The Relief Process

I have determined that I may be eligible for relief under the settlement. How can I seek help with my mortgage under the settlement?

You have a few options in seeking relief through the settlement. You may want to pursue all of these options at the same time. One option is to contact a HUD-Approved Housing Counselor. You can find a list of California agencies providing HUD-approved counseling. You can also get connected with a counselor by calling 1-800-569-4287. Such counselors are free and do not take money. Be wary of anyone who offers you these services for a fee and be sure to fully examine their reputation and business practices before paying any money.

A second option is to contact your loan servicer. Some of the banks participating in the settlement have set up homeownership centers where you can submit your application in person. Find a listing of Chase’s centers. Find a listing of Bank of America’s centers.

You can also contact the banks at the following toll-free numbers:

  • Bank of America/Countrywide: call (877) 488-7814.
  • JPMorgan Chase/Washington Mutual: call (866) 372-6901.
  • Wells Fargo/Wachovia: call (800) 288-3212.
  • Citibank/Citimortgage: call (866) 272-4749.
  • Ally/GMAC: call (800) 766-4622

For other information, please visit the national foreclosure settlement website.

I need help filling out the paperwork from the bank. What should I do?

We recommend that you contact a HUD-Approved Housing Counselor. Find a list of California agencies providing counseling. You can also get connected with a counselor by calling 1-800-569-4287. Importantly, such counselors are free and do not take money. Be wary of anyone who offers you these services for a fee and be sure to fully examine their reputation and business practices before paying any money.

Should I stop paying my mortgage?

Nothing in the settlement changes your existing financial relationship with the settling banks. It in no way relieves you of any obligations you may have to the settling banks.

When will the modifications or payments under the settlement begin?

The settling banks are beginning to implement the modification program as quickly as possible. For more details and the most up to date information, please visit the nationwide settlement’s website. You should also call your servicer directly. Payments to foreclosed homeowners will take considerably longer while the claims process concludes.

I am in the process of seeking relief under the settlement. I am unhappy with the way the bank is handling my request for help with my mortgage. Who do I complain to about the bank?

You can file a complaint with the California Attorney General’s Office by sending a letter with copies of any supporting documentation to the:

Office of the Attorney General
Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

or you can file a complaint online.

Where should I go for updates or new information about the settlement?

For more details and the most up to date information, please visit the nationwide settlement’s website.

Other Forms of Relief

Can I still sue the banks if I get any relief under the settlement?

Yes. The Attorney General fought hard to prevent a release of claims by individual consumers.

Can you give me advice on whether I have legal claims against the banks?

No. The Attorney General’s Office is not able to give you legal advice or any other advice on this matter. If you would like advice, please consult a private attorney of your choosing or a legal aid attorney if you qualify.

How can I find a lawyer?

The California State Bar Association has information about attorney referrals at its website. Click on the link for “Lawyer Referral Services” on the bottom left hand corner of the page. You can download the California State Bar Association’s booklet about how to find the right attorney at the following website: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Pamphlets/HiringaLawyer.aspx

Do I need to hire someone in order to secure relief under this settlement?

No. However, you may wish to contact a HUD-Approved Housing Counselor. Find a list of California agencies providing counseling. You can also get connected with a counselor by calling 1-800-569-4287. Importantly, such counselors are free and do not take money. Be wary of anyone who offers you these services for a fee and be sure to fully examine their reputation and business practices before paying any money.

My bank is not one of the banks who settled with the Attorney General, but I am having the same problems that borrowers in this settlement are having. Can I file a complaint about my bank?

Where can I obtain more information about this settlement?

For detailed information about the settlement please visit national mortgage settlement website.

The bank refused to do a loan modification, so I was forced into a short sale. Am I eligible for a settlement payment under this settlement?

No. Settlement payments are limited to homeowners who lost their home to foreclosure and meet all other eligibility requirements.

Why aren’t Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages included? Who do I contact to complain about these mortgages not being included?

The federal agencies in control of those loans have refused to do principal reductions. Complaints may be directed to: Edward DeMarco, Acting Director, Federal Housing Finance Agency, e-mail: Director@FHFA.gov

Why aren’t CalVet mortgages included? How do I get help with my CalVet mortgage?

The California Department of Veterans Affairs currently does not have the legal authority to refinance homeowners who are in difficult situations, and is exploring possible legislative solutions. For questions pertaining to a CalVet mortgage, please contact the CalVet Customer Services Unit at (800) 952- 5626 (toll free) or (916) 503-8362 or by email at loanserv@cdva.ca.gov

How do I get help with a CalHFA-serviced loan?

Contact the California Housing Finance Agency at (800) 669-1079 or by email at servicing@calhfa.ca.gov

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