Homeowners get help

Published 12:30 am Friday, February 10, 2012

Foreclosure settlement may trickle down

The $37 billion settlement reached by states, the federal government and the nation’s five largest banks could benefit local homeowners confronting foreclosure.

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper announced North Carolina would receive $338 million through the settlement.

Of that total, $63.7 million would “provide for housing counselors, legal help, financial fraud detection and prosecution, general economic reparation for the state and fines and penalties which go to the public schools,” reads a news release from Cooper’s office.

Of the remaining cash, $33.57 million in payments would be made to foreclosure victims, while $179.51 million would be used to reduce principal payments or otherwise help homeowners risking default on their mortgages, the release shows.

And $61.52 million would be employed to refinance loans for people whose payments exceed their homes’ worth.

The agreement with the banks would reduce “improper foreclosures,” prohibit foreclosures “while the homeowner is being considered for a loan modification,” and, “Allow homeowners to appeal denial of loan modification applications,” Cooper’s office announced.

“Some foreclosures have to happen, but they must be done correctly and fairly,” Cooper said.  “While this should have been the standard all along, our investigation has shown that it wasn’t, and it might never have been without this settlement.”

The settlement comes as part of a “massive enforcement effort launched in October 2010 as state attorneys general, state banking regulators, and nearly a dozen federal agencies joined forces to investigate mortgage servicing and foreclosure abuses,” the release reads.

It’s unknown how many Beaufort County homeowners might benefit from the agreement.

As of Thursday, about 20 foreclosures were on file, in various states of disposition, at the Beaufort County clerk of court’s office. Of these, at least one had been appealed in December 2011. A handful had been postponed, at the request of the note holders, to give the mortgage holders more time for loan modification or to settle their debts.

Tax records show there are 15,224 single-family housing units — excluding townhouses and condominiums — in Beaufort County.