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Oklahoma foreclosure settlement applications available

Homeowners who believe they have been victims of unfair foreclosure practices are urged to begin the process of seeking help through an $18.6 million agreement reached between the state and several banks and mortgage lenders, an official said.

Homeowners have begun requesting mortgage restitution forms from Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office, said Diane Clay, Pruitt’s spokeswoman.

The form is a questionnaire that will help Pruitt’s office determine if a homeowner has been victimized by unfair foreclosure practices by five identified banks, Clay said.

“We are getting requests for the form and mailing them out, but you can also download it at our website,” Clay said. “Anyone in Oklahoma who believes they were a victim of unfair practices during their foreclosure process should apply for compensation as provided by the Oklahoma settlement.”

When filling out the form, homeowners are urged to send accompanying documents, including emails, letters, notices, court filings, hand-written notes and other communications with a bank, said Tom Bates, chief of the Public Protection Unit for Pruitt’s office.

Meanwhile, a distressed Tulsan facing foreclosure has been offered relief from a benefactor who read about the homeowner’s plight in the Tulsa World.

Steven Vogler, 61, has been featured in the World describing his year-long battle with Chase bank to save his Tulsa home from foreclosure. Vogler sought mortgage relief through a government program but ended up facing foreclosure proceedings and a sheriff’s auction last month.

A Tulsa World reader stepped forward to help Vogler refinance his home, which the Voglers purchased in 1998.

“There has been an unbelievable outpouring of support and concern from people hearing about our story,” Vogler said. “This is a relief for the family. An unbelievable weight has been removed from my shoulders.”

Vogler said the benefactor, who has asked to remain anonymous, will refinance his home at a rate that will let Vogler make payments.

Chase officials removed Vogler’s home from the sheriff’s auction and announced plans to reach out to his family after the World articles were published.

Pruitt has faced questions over his decision to strike his own deal with bankers and lenders. Under Pruitt’s plan, Oklahoma is receiving about $10 million less than it would have received if the state had agreed to a national settlement along with 49 other attorney generals.

Pruitt has defended his decision to opt out of the multistate $25 billion settlement between the states and five major lenders accused of unfair foreclosure practices.

Pruitt’s office crafted its own $18.6 million settlement with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and GMAC. All were subject to the recent $25 billion agreement.

Bates said Pruitt would release more details of the state’s plan in the future, including a deadline for those applying for relief.

“When the deadline is announced, you can probably expect a six-month window to apply for relief,” Bates said.

The Public Protection Unit is developing an index to assess the harm and compensation needed, Clay said.

The $18.6 million in relief will be placed in a special account overseen by Pruitt’s office, Bates said.

The money is reserved for those believed to be victims of “robo-signing,” dual tracking or those told to stop making mortgage payments who ultimately face foreclosure, Bates said.

“There are individuals who were advised to stop paying (payments) to apply for the modification process, and what ultimately happened was they were foreclosed upon,” Bates said. “These are to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”

Dual tracking is a process in which homeowners are told they are on track to modify their home loan to avoid foreclosure while at the same time the bank has them on a separate track to foreclose. Robo-signing involves mortgage-servicing companies affixing computer-generated signatures to foreclosure documents that require personal knowledge and verification of the information.

Vogler said he believes he faced some form of dual tracking by Chase bank. He applied for relief through the Making Home Affordable plan, he said.

“I was told to stop making payments as part of the mortgage modification process, and then I began receiving letters stating I am behind on my payments. Foreclosure followed that.”

The nationwide investigation of the banks began in October 2010, Bates said.

Bates said Pruitt’s office had heard stories of troublesome foreclosures. The office has received almost 90 complaints from homeowners, he said.

“The Attorney General’s program is for those foreclosed upon or on the cusp of foreclosure and who have been through the nightmarish process of (mortgage) modification,” Bates said.

Vogler and other homeowners featured by the World documented their process in seeking mortgage relief under the federal program called Making Home Affordable.

The Making Home Affordable program represents the federal government’s effort to assist homeowners in danger of losing their homes due to lost jobs or other economic factors.

In February, federal officials announced plans to modify the program by tripling financial incentives for private lenders to reduce mortgage principal for home-owners at risk of default.

Oklahomans who may not qualify for Pruitt’s plan can still apply for assistance with loan-principal reductions or refinancing from the nationwide settlement, Bates said.


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