Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Mortgage Fraud Creating Multiple Fixes: Be Aware Of Their Tactics

One of every five loans in today's market are sub-prime -- meaning these are loans to consumers whose credit is substandard. A sub-prime mortgage means it has tougher terms for the borrower, such as higher points, higher interest rates, and high private mortgage insurance premiums as part of the mortgage payment. It is in this arena that you will find a practice called "predatory lending."

Before moving forward, let me emphasize that many of the sub-prime mortgage programs in the field are legitimate. Consumers with bad credit have the opportunity to purchase a home under these programs albeit, with less than stellar terms. However, when you've missed payments, filed bankruptcy, taken on too much debt, etc., you are not going to receive the best of terms. When everyone else is paying a 5.75 percent rate, you could be paying 8, 9 or 10.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lays out how to recognize predatory lending practices. These "mortgage professionals" may try to:

Sell properties for much more than they are worth using false appraisals.

Encourage borrowers to lie about their income, expenses, or cash available for downpayments in order to get a loan.

Knowingly lend more money than a borrower can afford to repay.

Charge high interest rates to borrowers based on their race or national origin, and not on their credit history.

Charge fees for unnecessary or nonexistent products and services.

Pressure borrowers to accept higher-risk loans such as balloon loans, interest only payments, and steep prepayment penalties.

Target vulnerable borrowers to cash-out refinance offers when they know borrowers are in need of cash due to medical, unemployment, or debt problems.

"Strip" homeowners' equity from their homes by convincing them to refinance again, and again, when there is no benefit to the borrower.

Use high pressure sales tactics to sell home improvements and then finance them at high interest rates. They may use strong-armed and alarmist techniques, such as telling you they are your only chance of getting a loan or owning a home. If you find that the house you are buying costs a lot more than other homes in the neighborhood, but isn't any bigger or better, this would be a sign of predatory lending.

Other tactics include:

You are asked to sign a sales contract or loan documents that are blank or that contain information which is not true.

You are told that the Federal Housing Administration insurance protects you against property defects or loan fraud -- it does not.

The cost or loan terms at closing are not what you agreed to.

Being told that refinancing can solve your credit or money problems.

You are told that you can only get a good deal on a home improvement if you finance it with a particular lender. Over the years, states and localities have piecemealed legislation to protect its consumers from those who would prey on their constituents. And now a couple of national bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress to bring all these rules in line to close loopholes that allow predatory lenders to exist.

The Responsible Lending Act is one of those bills, introduced this session by Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development, and Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (D-PA). The Coalition for Affordable and Fair Lending has published a clear summary of the bill on its web site, stating the bill will "cover far more loans, add many new protections for covered loans, strengthen penalties for violations, apply limited liability in certain instances to secondary market purchasers of loans (so-called "assignee liability") and set uniform national standards by preempting state laws dealing with these issues."

If you believe you've experienced mortgage fraud, there's a way to find out through, where you'll find a survey on mortgage fraud practices. In addition, by entering your zip code, you will be directed to your state and local commissions where, you can report acts of fraud.

Be a smart consumer, know who you're dealing with. The best way to protect yourself is going with a reputable professional who belongs to an accepted industry association, such as the Mortgage Bankers Association of America and the National Association of Mortgage Brokers.

Published: April 8, 2005

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I am seeing lenders push the following approach:

* Seller to deed property to buyer.

* Buyer then refinances and pays the seller off.

My concerns are as follows:

* In most cases the seller has an existing loan, which is likely to be called due if the lender discovers the transfer.

* The buyer could attach liens, either voluntarily or otherwise and if they fail to close, stick the seller with those liens.

* The lender is being induced to make a refinance when it is truly a purchase money transaction, thereby underestimating the risk of the transaction.