Monday, October 31, 2011

Inspector General Concludes 600K May Be Left Out of HAMP

The Law Offices of Robert E. Brown, P.C.

"Government bureaucracy and bungling at its best! If you ever want a program to fail just have the Fed run it! Because of the way HAMP was established it was destined to fail right from the start. They're "surprised" that more home owners aren't being helped? Beside the fact that the servicers/lenders are just not interested in helping anyone but themselves (which no one ever acknowledges) the Fed made the punishment for noncompliance almost nonexistent. In addition, how successful did the Feds really expect HAMP to be when the underwriting requirements for HAMP are more stringent than the original requirements?"
- John Brancato, Loss Mitigation, Robert E. Brown, P.C.

Federally funded mortgage relief programs continue to struggle to reach homeowners, according to the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).

A new report from the watchdog agency, only $2.5 billion – or 5.4 percent – of the $45.6 billion in TARP funds earmarked for housing support programs has been spent.

SIGTARP says participation in the signature Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), in particular, has been “disappointing.” The oversight group estimates that should the pace of modifications continue at its current pace, as many as 600,000 homeowners who are eligible for the program will not receive a permanent modification before HAMP expires next fall.

Treasury recently published data showing that there are now 992,968 homeowners eligible for HAMP. The number of new permanent mortgage modifications each month has hovered between 25,000 and 30,000.

“While this represents real help for these homeowners, many additional homeowners could receive that same help,” SIGTARP said in its report.

The special inspector general attributes HAMP’s sub-par numbers “in large part to poor servicer performance.”

The agency says through its hotline and anecdotally, its staff continues to hear about homeowner frustration with the performance of mortgage servicers related to HAMP.

The watchdog group says Treasury could reduce the likelihood that homeowners are misinformed or confused by requiring servicers to notify borrowers in writing of any change related to their participation status or application terms. SIGTARP says this written communication could be as simple as email, and notes that oral notification is open to abuse with compliance difficult to assess.

The agency also says there have been a number of serious homeowner complaints that many trial modifications last beyond the intended three months, that many trial modifications fail to ever convert to permanent status, and that homeowners have trouble getting timely responses when they escalate complaints.

To address these concerns, SIGTARP says it has made new recommendations to Treasury to improve servicer performance, including that Treasury set benchmarks on what it deems to be acceptable performance for conversion rates from trial to permanent modifications, length of trial modifications, and timelines for resolving escalated cases.

SIGTARP recommended that Treasury measure all servicers against those benchmarks. When any servicer — not just the top 10 that Treasury evaluates each quarter — fails to perform at acceptable levels, SIGTARP recommended that Treasury “vigorously enforce its rights,” including using all available financial remedies to force servicer compliance through withholding, permanently reducing, or clawing back incentive payments.

According to SIGTARP, Treasury has determined not to take any further action to implement its suggestions, stating that it considered the recommendations closed.

According to Treasury, it has “succeeded in improving servicer performance” with non-financial remedies and temporarily withholding incentives from two servicers. Treasury stated that it will exercise its financial remedies “when necessary,” but SIGTARP says given the number of homeowner complaints, if there are benchmarks in this area, Treasury is not adequately enforcing them against the 112 active servicers.

For example, if Treasury’s benchmark for acceptable lengths of trial modifications is three to four months, SIGTARP says it is not aware of any repercussion for servicers who exceed that time.

“With less than 1 million struggling borrowers remaining eligible, and a window quickly closing on the end of the program, Treasury must double its efforts to ensure that servicers comply with program requirements,” SIGTARP said in its report.

The federal agency stressed that compliance with the program is not voluntary, adding that if Treasury does not take action to change the status quo … “Treasury is giving up a chance at meaningful change and sadly, it is struggling homeowners who have the most to lose.”

Thank you

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