I-Team: Bank Customers Get Help With New Federal Rules

LAS VEGAS -- Starting this week, homeowners have new rights when it comes to dealing with their lending banks.

The I-Team reported last month about Nevada's attorney general sending out more than 60,000 letters to affected homeowners.

This is the first week that banks have to work under a new set of guidelines. Customers who feel they are being mistreated by their bank can report them to the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight.

It's part of the multi-state foreclosure settlement with five major banks.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, Ally and Citibank now have to follow a set of 300 new guidelines.(LINK)

The most important guidelines include banks having to provide customers with one person to handle a home loan.

They also have deadlines and face penalties if paperwork is lost.

Those five banks also can't foreclose on a house if the homeowner is in the middle of a loan modification.

They also have to provide $20 billion nationwide in assisting homeowners with short sales and principal reductions. Another $5 billion has been set aside to assist foreclosed-upon homeowners.

The I-Team spoke with the man in charge of making certain the banks keep their end of the settlement and asked him if he's concerned those banks are trying to get around the requirements.

"I don't want to give people a false sense about the settlement," settlement administrator Joseph Smith said. "If a person has lost his or her job, if they're in deep financial trouble, we can't intervene and help them out in that regard. What we're concerned about is when there's circumstances of distress, where there's a way the situation could be worked out, that they get every opportunity to do it."

The banks are ordered to correct any problems, or they can be taken back to court for fines up to $5 million for each home loan.

All five major banks have stated they are meeting the new requirements.

A local Wells Fargo spokesman said the bank is "increasing transparency" and "restoring confidence in the mortgage servicing industry."


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