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Foreclosures – and Related Fees – Continue in VA

June 14, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. - Fees, late charges, more fees and default notices - the mortgage crisis and related foreclosures continue in Virginia, even as two versions of a bill to tighten lending practices and offer greater protection for consumers are being hammered out in Congress.

One of the biggest lenders, Countrywide Home Loans - which is now part of Bank of America - was ordered to pay $108 million dollars in fines last week for overcharging customers, most of whom were in default or foreclosure. Connie Chamberlain, executive director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, says the practice of overcharging is more common than many realize.

"We see many occasions where people are being charged fees that don't seem to be related to anything in particular, and really cause additional problems for people who are falling behind."

Chamberlain says it's important for people to reach out for help right away when they find themselves unable to pay a mortgage, and that there are many legitimate resources available in the state to assist them. She recommends using a HUD-approved housing counseling agency.

Attorney Jay Speer, executive director of the Virginia Poverty Law Center, adds the Countrywide case exposes the need for a more watchful eye on the mortgage industry as a whole.

"You know, I think we've got a really big problem when the Federal Trade Commission files a complaint and in the complaint, the words, 'This is how the scheme worked,' are used. I mean, that indicates to me a very, very big problem."

Countrywide was accused of charging inflated or unnecessary fees to thousands of customers who had been trying to save their homes and reorganize their debt payments.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA