Months after the first invitations were mailed, only a small percentage of eligible borrowers have accepted a chance to have their foreclosure cases checked for errors and maybe win restitution.
By April 30, fewer than 165,000 people had applied to have their foreclosures checked for mistakes — about 4 percent of the 4.1 million who received letters about the free reviews late last year, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The reviews were agreed to by 14 major mortgage servicers and federal banking regulators in a settlement last year over alleged foreclosure abuses.
So few people have responded that another mailing to almost 4 million households will go out in early June, reminding them of the July 31 deadline to request a review, OCC spokesman Bryan Hubbard says.
If errors occurred, restitution could run from several hundred dollars to more than $100,000.
The reviews are separate from the $25 billion mortgage-servicing settlement that state and federal officials reached this year.
Anyone who requests a review will get one if they meet certain criteria. Mortgages had to be in the foreclosure process in 2009 or 2010, on a primary residence, and serviced by one of the 14 servicers or their affiliates, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citibankand Wells Fargo.
More information is atindependentforeclosurereview.com.
Even though letters went to more than 4 million households, consumer advocates say follow-up advertising has been ineffective, leading to the low response rate.
Many consumers have also grown wary of foreclosure scams and government foreclosure programs, says Deborah Goldberg of the National Fair Housing Alliance.
"The effort is being made" to reach people, says Paul Leonard, the mortgage servicers' representative at the Financial Services Roundtable, a trade group. "It's hard to say why people aren't responding."
With this settlement, foreclosure cases will be reviewed one by one by consultants hired by the servicers but monitored by regulators.
With the $25 billion mortgage settlement, borrowers who lost homes to foreclosure will be eligible for payouts from a $1.5 billion fund.
That could mean 750,000 borrowers getting about $2,000 each, federal officials have said.
For more information on that, go to nationalmortgagesettlement.com.
This story first appeared in USA Today.