WASHINGTON (6/18/08)—The HOPE NOW mortgage industry coalition, formed late last year to boost efforts to help struggling homeowners keep their homes, announced new guidelines Tuesday that the alliance hopes will speed up help to troubled mortgage borrowers. HOPE NOW unveiled standardized guidelines for workout categories in an attempt to make mortgage servicers’ efforts to help homeowners become more uniform. The guidelines are intended to bolster HOPE NOW’s efforts to increase workouts by eliminating confusion caused by institutions’ varying definitions of such things as loan modification, forbearance, and repayment plan. "The HOPE NOW procedures announced today will allow even more homeowners to get help faster. We are pleased to see the alliance members continually making improvements and expect them to maintain their efforts,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Domestic Finance Robert K. Steel, in a release. “As we have said, there is no one silver bullet to address every housing challenge, but if we continue pursuing a series of measures and initiatives, we can have a maximum impact," he added. It was the U.S. Treasury Department, along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that announced the creation of HOPE NOW last October. According to HOPE NOW, its new guidelines will accomplish four goals. They are:
* Expedite—by establishing a uniform, streamlined timetable for action by each mortgage servicer when dealing with a homeowner. This will provide every homeowner who contacts their servicer with deadlines by which action is likely to be taken and a better understanding about their particular situation; * Inform—by including extensive procedures by which mortgage servicers will keep homeowners informed about the status of their request for assistance. It also includes access to free, independent counseling for homeowners who want information about their options. It also sets detailed procedures that servicers will use to reach out to homeowners who may be in danger of losing their home; * Protect—by setting extensive options that mortgage servicers agree to use to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, including loan modifications, repayment plans, partial claims, and temporarily suspending the need to make monthly payments. The agreement also calls on mortgage servicers to delay pending foreclosure proceedings when there is a possibility that other options will allow homeowner to stay in their home; and * Remedy—by including guidelines for dealing with two difficult foreclosure-related issues -- second mortgages and short sales. Because of the guidelines established in this agreement, neither of these should be as difficult for homeowners as they have been in the past.
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