State launches media campaign to prevent foreclosures

By Andrew Pereira
Published On: Jan 30 2013 10:26:48 AM HST
Updated On: Jan 08 2013 06:03:16 AM HST

The state says nearly a thousand homeowners have already had their mortgages modified and those currently under water may be able to get the same help.

HONOLULU -

The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs launched a media blitz Monday that hopes to inform Hawaii homeowners of their options in the face of foreclosure.

“There are many federal and state programs available to help you today,” Bruce Kim, executive director of the Office of Consumer Protection, said while announcing the initiative.  

Two ad campaigns appearing in print, TV and radio hope to raise awareness about loan modification programs under the $25 billion national mortgage settlement, which was announced last February by the federal government and 49 states. Under terms of the agreement with Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, homeowners can apply to have their mortgages modified, or receive a $2,000 cash payout.

According to state Attorney General David Louie, 950 Hawaii homeowners have taken advantage of the settlement, resulting in $94 million worth of mortgage relief.

“I think that is a terrific result, (and) we expect more to come,” Louie told reporters.    

However, homeowners who have yet to take advantage of the settlement only have until Jan. 18 to file a claim. To qualify, a mortgage must have been issued by one of the participating banks between Jan. 1, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2011.

“Hawaii homeowners need to know what the programs are, and they need to take action and they need to respond,” said Louie.

In 2010 there were 1,331 pending foreclosures Hawaii, but by the end of 2012, that number ballooned to 2,971. Louie speculates banks may have held back on taking possession of homes as they examined the impact of ACT 48, the state law passed in 2011 that suspended nonjudicial foreclosures until July 1 of last year.

As part of the new law, Hawaii amended the Mortgage Foreclosure Dispute Resolution Program to make it easier for owner-occupants to meet deadlines while submitting applications online.  Nevertheless, DCCA Director Kealii Lopez confirmed not a single lending institution participated in the program since Act 48 was passed.

“The concept there was to get the borrower and lender together to actually try to work through a loan modification,” said Lopez.  

The new ad campaign announced by DCCA urges residents to take action if they receive correspondence from banks about late mortgage payments. One of the PSA’s also warns anxious homeowners to be leery of companies or individuals promising to solve their foreclosure problems.

“These scammers take advantage of vulnerable, distressed property owners by promising to save their houses from foreclosure,” said Kim. “Homeowners in most instances can get the same help for free from certified HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) counselors right here in Hawaii.”

The cost of the PSA’s are estimated at about $200,000, part of the $7.9 million Hawaii received in the national mortgage settlement. Louie said the remainder of the money is being used for programs and initiatives to help prevent future foreclosures. 

Hawaii homeowners looking to take advantage of foreclosure programs can contact the Office of Consumer Protection at 587-3222, or visit HFIC.Hawaii.gov.

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