Treasure Coast residents who lost homes to foreclosure could be eligible for cash payment

TREASURE COAST, Fla. - A nationwide mortgage foreclosure settlement program is again attempting to alert thousands of Floridians that they are probably eligible for a share of $170 million in cash payments, if they file claims by Jan. 18.

Reminder notices are in the mail from the National Mortgage Settlement program, which previously sent applications to 167,000 Floridians. They are people who lost their homes from 2008 to 2011 in mortgage foreclosures serviced by five major companies: Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Ally/GMAC.

During April the companies agreed to a joint state-federal settlement that set aside $1.5 billion for cash payments to 2 million borrowers nationwide because of foreclosure abuses or fraud. That includes robo signing of documents outside the presence of a notary or without knowing if the facts were correct, according to the Florida Attorney General's office.

So far 43 percent of the eligible citizens have replied nationwide, according to the program and the Florida Attorney General's Office. The number of people who got applications in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties isn't available from the program.

"We have gone to extraordinary efforts to track down people," said Jeff Greenwood with the Iowa Attorney General's office that is helping oversee the program. "Only a small number are not being found.

"The claim form is simple" and there are no fees, he said. Still, less than half have replied.

"This is not a scam," he said. Anyone who believes someone is attempting to scam them in the settlement should contact the Florida Attorney General's office at 850-414-3990.

The cash payments are part of an overall $25 billion penalty settlement, the largest joint state-federal settlement in history that was reached during negotiations between the companies, state attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the National Association of Attorney Generals.

At least $17 billion was set aside mainly for helping people who cannot afford their current payments. Another $3 billion is for refinancing "underwater" homes where the current value of the dwelling is far less than the loan amount.

Apart from the money, the settlement changes how the companies handle loans and foreclosures. That includes establishing a single contact for borrowers. And the state attorneys general are establishing an independent monitor over federally chartered banks.

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