Help Finally Comes to Struggling Homeowners

by Ted A. Greene on February 3, 2016

The 2007 Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act has been extended through the end of 2016.
On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed a bill that extended the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act through December 31, 2016. The extension also retroactively covers mortgage debt cancelled in 2015.
The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (MFDRA) prevents homeowners who went through a short sale from being taxed on the amount of their home mortgage debt that was forgiven. Believe it or not, but normally, debt that has been forgiven by a lender counts as taxable income.

Originally enacted in 2007, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act allows debt forgiveness of up to $2 million to NOT be considered taxable income if:
•    The house has been used as the principal place of residence for two of the last five years.
•    The debt has been used to buy, build, or make substantial improvements to the home.

Obviously, this is a huge relief to owners of distressed properties who are already facing financial burdens, and it eases many of the concerns they may have had about moving forward with a short sale.

There are other ways to avoid the debt such as insolvency or bankruptcy but you really need to talk to both a legal professional and a tax expert.

If you need help with your mortgage please contact Mr. Greene. He has been a leader in helping homeowners struggling with their mortgage and even has been suing the banks to force them to follow California law. He can be reached at (888) 442-2545 or send him an email at tgreene@tedgreenelaw.com

Distressed Outlook: Big Banks Continue to Whittle Down Legacy Loans

Editor’s Note: This story is part of National Mortgage News’ 2015 Outlook coverage. Click here for more stories previewing the industry’s biggest trends for 2015.

The nation’s largest banks have attacked their delinquent loan portfolios with gusto, but they may hit barriers in 2015 as they try to further whittle down their distressed assets.

Some industry experts are predicting a new wave of delinquencies and foreclosures in the coming year if interest rates rise, causing home prices to decline.

Many of the largest banks continue to sell off nonperforming loans. Hedge funds and private-equity firms have bid up the prices of distressed loans as they seek to profit from recent home price increases, which could abate in the coming year.

Bank of America has made the greatest strides in whittling down its distressed assets afterselling off more than $1 trillion in nonperforming loans since 2009. The $2.1 trillion-asset bank in Charlotte, N.C., held 221,000 delinquent loans on its balance sheet in the third quarter, a 44% drop from a year earlier.

About three-quarters of its nonperforming loans are legacy assets from its 2008 acquisition of Countrywide Financial. B of A held roughly $10 billion in nonperforming residential mortgage loans at the end of the third quarter, and $32 billion in delinquent loans inherited from Countrywide. Those totals exclude home equity loans and lines of credit.

B of A has estimated that it will get back to a normal level of delinquent loans by 2016. Some analysts think that is an optimistic assessment, since some loans probably cannot be sold, and working out problem loans — especially those at the bottom of the barrel — is notoriously slow and labor intensive.

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo held roughly $10.7 billion of loans that were 30 days or more delinquent in the third quarter, according to the bank’s 3Q14 earnings. It also holds $46.4 billion in legacy loans in its Pick-a-Pay mortgage portfolio acquired from its 2008 purchase of Wachovia.

Overall, the seven largest banks and one large thrift saw an improvement in the number of seriously delinquent loans held on their balance sheets at the end of the third quarter, as of Sept. 30 according to a December report from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Roughly 5.2% or 117,673 residential mortgages were seriously delinquent at the end of the third quarter, down from 5.5% a year earlier, the report found. The reporting banks include Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citibank, HSBC, PNC, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo, while OneWest Bank is the largest thrift.

But the report also noted that about 8% of mortgages held in bank portfolios lack credit scores at origination and are a mix of prime, Alt-A, and subprime mortgages.

“Since 2009, mortgages owned by the servicers have performed worse than mortgages serviced for (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) because of concentrations in nontraditional loans, weaker markets, and delinquent loans repurchased from investors,” the OCC said.

Large bank lenders have opted to sell defaulted loans to avoid the high costs of servicing and holding the debt. Large banks in particular have relied on sales of mortgage servicing rights, as well as servicing transfers, pay-downs and payoffs to reduce their holdings of nonperforming loans. An estimated $60 billion in nonperforming loans is expected to have changed hands in 2014.

 

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Senate Passes Tax Bill That Includes Key Mortgage Deductions

The Senate approved a bill late Tuesday that would retroactively extend over 50 expiring tax provisions for one year, including one that shields distressed homeowners from paying taxes on any mortgage debt forgiven in a short sale.

The Senate approved the bill 76 to 16, which extends the provisions until Dec. 30 of this year (the one-year extension is retroactive). The House passed the bill 387 to 46 on Dec. 3.

At one point, House and Senate lawmakers were close to a deal on a two-year extension. But the White House objected because key business tax provisions were given permanent status while others affecting low- and moderate-income households would still have had to be extended each year.

“In my view, any agreement on permanent tax policies must be balanced between support for businesses and support for working families. A deal that only makes corporate policies permanent — or one sharply skewed in that direction — would have failed the test of fairness,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Under the bill, homeowners can deduct the cost of mortgage insurance premiums on their 2014 tax forms. This tax break covers private mortgage insurance premiums as well as premiums paid on Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Rural Housing Service guaranteed loans. The U.S. Mortgage Insurers welcomed the extension.

“USMI commends passage by Congress last night of a one year extension of vital homeowner tax relief. We are especially pleased that the legislation includes the tax-deductible treatment of mortgage insurance premiums for low and moderate income borrowers. We look forward to working with Congress towards permanent enactment of this important tax relief for homeowners,” according to the private mortgage companies.

About 3.6 million taxpayers claimed the mortgage insurance deduction in 2009, according to analysts at Compass Point Research and Trading LLC.

The bill also ensures underwater borrowers that sold their homes in a short sale in 2014 will not be penalized.

Prior to the housing bust, troubled homeowners had to pay taxes on any mortgage debt that was canceled or forgiven by a lender. The amount of forgiven mortgage debt was treated as ordinary income and taxed accordingly.

The “Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act is crucial to foreclosure mitigation efforts such as principal forgiveness and short sales,” said Isaac Boltansky, an analyst with Compass Point.

In 2007, Congress passed the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act so that distressed borrowers would not be penalized for doing a short sale. Congress extended this tax relief in 2009 and 2012, but failed to pass a tax extender bill at the end of 2013.

Since 2008, more than 800,000 distressed homeowners have taken advantage of this tax break, according to Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., an original sponsor of the debt forgiveness bill in 2007.

Short sales have been declining over the past few years due to an improving economy, lower foreclosures and the uncertainty over the tax consequences of a short sale or deed in lieu transaction, where the homeowner simply signs over the deed to the house to the bank and vacates the property.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac servicers completed 27,800 short sales during the first eight months of this year, compared to 87,740 in 2013 and 125,232 in 2012.

Boltansky noted that the retroactive reauthorization for 2014 also gives Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt a shield to resist Democratic pressure to permit principal reductions on Fannie and Freddie loans.

Watt “will have additional political cover to reject calls to embrace the principal reduction through HAMP as the tax consequences could limit borrower participation” he wrote in a Dec. 2 report.

 

source  Brian Collins

DEC 17, 2014 12:27pm ET

House OK’s Short Sale Tax Break, On to Senate

Daily Real Estate News | Monday, December 08, 2014

looking over documents The U.S. House passed a bill last week that would extend key tax breaks to financially distressed home owners who went through a short sale. The bill now goes before the Senate for consideration, where housing analysts hope for action during the final week of the Lame Duck session of Congress.

The National Association of REALTORS® has been calling on members to urge Congress to renew the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act, an income exemption on mortgage debt forgiven in a short sale or a workout for principal residences.

The act expired at the end of 2013. That means distressed home owners could be responsible for paying pay taxes on “phantom income” from any forgiven debt once the properties are sold. That is, if a lender sells a property for less than the amount owed on the mortgage, the home owner will then have to report that forgiven debt as taxable income to the IRS. The tax on a 2014 short sale or workout would be due April 15 of next year if Congress fails to extend the measure. If the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act extension is granted, taxpayers will be able to continue to exclude the forgiven debt from their annual income calculations.

The House included a one-year extension of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act in the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, which passed the House on Wednesday in a vote of 378-46.

In the first three quarters of this year alone, there have been more than 170,000 short sales, representing a total bill of $8.1 billion in mortgage debt forgiveness, according to estimates from RealtyTrac. But the lapse in the extension has caused some home owners to avoid short sales and workouts. Still, more than 5 million home owners remain underwater, owing more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth. Also, nearly 1 million households are seriously delinquent on their mortgages or are in foreclosure.

“Unless Congress acts, hundreds of thousands of American families who did the right thing will have to pay tax on ‘phantom income’ – money they never see,” read an ad issued by NAR last week that ran in select Capitol Hill publications.

Source: “Short Sale Tax Break Passes House,” HousingWire (Dec. 5, 2014)

10 financial tips for young people

If I could go back in time, I would do certain things differently. I’m not saying I have a lot of regrets. But when I was younger, I tended to have myopic vision. For instance, it was hard to imagine that one day I would be older. Even today, sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder, who the hell is that?

I wish that, when I was younger, someone had sat me down and told me a few things. Or else I wish that I’d listened when someone attempted to do this.

If you’re young, take a seat and listen up. These gems will help you on your quest for financial success.

  1. Go to college.You may want to do something that doesn’t require a college degree. For instance, you may dream of playing professional golf or running a barn and training horses. But give serious consideration to enrolling in college anyway. Yes, it’s a major investment, but if your parents are unable to help you pay for it, makes it happen yourself, even if it means taking out loans. One way to save on costs: Go to a community college first; then transfer to a four-year university after two years.

It’s easier to get a degree when you’re young than when you have a home, family and all the adult responsibilities that go with these things. Your earnings potential increases significantly with a college degree — which will come in handy if your other dreams don’t materialize. Plus, you will likely experience a love of learning that you will never outgrow.

  1. Find your purpose.If you’re having trouble figuring out what you want to do with your life, look within. You were born with certain talents and natural abilities. You know which subjects you excel in and which ones you struggle with. Choose a career that enables you to maximize your gifts in a way that fulfills you or helps others. As you grow, your career may change along with your desires. But for now, gravitate toward a field that feels like home.
  2. Begin retirement planning with your first job.This tip is so important. If the company you work for offers a 401(k) plan, sign up at your first opportunity. If there’s no such plan, divert some of your paycheck into an IRA. Believe it or not, if you’re lucky, one day you’ll find you are older, so it’s best to be prepared. Setting up automatic contributions to either one of these retirement vehicles at a young age will help you build wealth painlessly.

Just as an example, let’s say you invest $200 a month beginning at age 25, and you earn 7 percent annually on that money. By the time you turn 65, you will have about $525,000 saved up. If you wait until you’re 35 to begin saving, assuming the same monthly investment and rate of return, you’ll have amassed less than half that amount — about $244,000. This illustration simply shows the impact that a 10-year head start can make on your savings, thanks to the magic of compounding.

By Barbara Whelehan • Bankrate.com
Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/10-financial-tips-for-young-people-1.aspx#ixzz3Klf5jQGz

Wells Fargo, U.S. No Longer Optimistic on Mortgage Pact

Lawyers for the U.S. and Wells Fargo & Co. told a judge they doubt they can reach a settlement in a government lawsuit accusing the bank of home-mortgage fraud, a person familiar with the matter said.

The U.S. sued San Francisco-based Wells Fargo in 2012, claiming it made reckless mortgage loans that defaulted and cost a federal insurance program hundreds of millions of dollars. The government said the bank’s misconduct spanned more than a decade while it participated in the Federal Housing Administration’s program.

The suit by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is part of a larger effort to recoup losses from defaulted mortgages insured by the FHA. It follows cases against lenders including Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG.

At a hearing yesterday, attorneys for both sides told U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman they no longer thought a settlement was within reach, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the case and asked not to be identified. Both sides had halted the pre-trial exchange of evidence for four months to engage in settlement talks, according to a court filing.

Furman warned lawyers that he wouldn’t give them a four-month extension to collect evidence because they’d agreed on their own to pause the process. The judge said he considered a two-month extension a “gift” to the parties.

“I’m going to give you two months,” Furman said, according to a transcript of the hearing. “You did this at your peril, as far as I’m concerned. And had you asked me four months ago for leave to do this, I might have had a different view, but having taken this upon yourselves, you took the chance and you’re going to suffer some consequences.”

Tom Goyda, a Wells Fargo spokesman, said the bank will continue defending itself against the allegations.

“Our good-faith efforts to work with the federal government on a possible resolution of the complaint have not yet resulted in a settlement,” Goyda said in a statement. “We will move forward with presenting our case in support of our prudent and responsible FHA lending practices.”

Furman last year dismissed some claims because the government filed them too late. The bank had sought dismissal of the entire case.

The FHA program enabled the bank to certify loans for government insurance without prior agency approval.

Jim Margolin, a spokesman for Bharara, declined to comment on the case or the bank’s statement.

In 2012, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $5 billion as its share of a settlement of U.S. and state suit probes into abusive foreclosure practices.

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CFPB Proposes to Expand Foreclosure Protections

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed on Thursday an additional set of measures designed to expand foreclosure protections for mortgage borrowers.

In an announcement Thursday afternoon, CFPB detailed the latest additions to its mortgage servicing rules, which first went into effect earlier this year. Since that time, the bureau says it has continued to engage in outreach with consumer advocacy groups, industry representatives, and other stakeholders to develop additional provisions to protect consumers and make it easier for companies to comply with the rules.

“The Consumer Bureau is committed to ensuring that homeowners and struggling borrowers are treated fairly by mortgage servicers and that no one is wrongly foreclosed upon,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “Today’s proposal would give greater protections to mortgage borrowers.”

Chief among the proposed rules would be a requirement that servicers must provide additional foreclosure protections to borrowers who have already worked through the loss mitigation process previously and recovered.

Under the current rules, servicers are already required to provide certain protections, including the right to be evaluated under CFPB requirements for foreclosure avoidance options, once during the life of the mortgage.

The proposed rule would require servicers to offer those same protections again for borrowers who have brought their loans current at any time since the last loss mitigation application. The bureau says the rule is largely designed to protect those who obtain a permanent loan modification and then later suffer an unrelated hardship that could create additional struggles, such as a job loss or the death of a family member.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more details.

http://dsnews.com/news/11-20-2014/cfpb-proposes-expand-foreclosure-protections

No Foreclosure During Short Sale

In a recent California case, the judge ruled in favor of homeowners saying it is illegal to foreclose while a short sale is being negotiated. The Court opined: Most dual tracking claims involve a borrower’s application for a loan modification and CC 2923.6.

Dual tracking is also prohibited, however, if a borrower and servicer agree to a non-modification foreclosure alternative, like a short sale.

If a short sale agreement is in writing, and if the borrower submits proof of financing to the servicer, a servicer may not move forward with the foreclosure process. CC § 2924.11(a)-(b). Here, servicer was still reviewing borrower’s short sale application, but had already received proof of financing when it foreclosed.

Even without evidence of a final, approved, short sale agreement, the court found borrowers to have stated a viable dual tracking claim under CC 2924.11 and overruled servicer’s demurrer.

Foreclosure litigation attorney help

Ocwen Backdated Thousands of Foreclosure Notices, Lawsky Says

New York’s top banking regulator claims mortgage servicer Ocwen Financial sent more than 6,100 borrowers notices of possible foreclosure only after their payment deadlines had passed.

The systems failures that Ocwen outlined previously as “isolated” are much greater in scope than what the company had previously disclosed, according to Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of the state’s Department of Financial Services.

Lawsky sent a warning letter Tuesday to Ocwen Chairman William Erbey, his counsel and directors, regarding what Lawsky described as a practice that is possibly still ongoing.

“Ocwen must fix its systems without delay,” the letter said.

Officials of Atlanta-based Ocwen are cooperating with the investigation and “deeply regret the inconvenience to borrowers who received improperly dated letters as a result of errors in our correspondence systems,” an Ocwen spokesman wrote in an email. They have identified 281current New York-based customers who were affected and are reviewing the other cases cited by Lawsky, the email said.

Shares of Ocwen were down 20%, to $21, in midafternoon trading.

Ocwen, the country’s largest nonbank mortgage servicer, has been under regulatory scrutiny over the past year, as consumer protection regulators scrutinize nonbank servicers’ ability to adequately administrate loans. Servicers’ portfolios have more than doubled in just a year’s time, as banks attempt to shed their servicing rights before new regulatory capital rules take effect.

In September Ocwen told monitors the backdating issue was an isolated incident, but the issue is far larger, Lawsky’s letter said. There may have been 6,100 problem letters sent to borrowers before Ocwen addressed the issue in May 2014, after an employee alerted a monitor of the problem five months prior. The company told monitors it responded and corrected the issue in May.

“Each of these representations turned out to be false,” the letter said.

The problem may prove to be even more widespread, perhaps affecting hundreds of thousands of borrowers, according to the letter.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has also tightened the screws on servicers. It took its first enforcement action under new servicing rules last month against Flagstar Bank after claiming the Michigan bank blocked customers’ attempts to save their homes.

That enforcement action underscored the regulatory headaches facing nonbanker servicers Ocwen and Nationstar Mortgage Holdings, Guggenheim analyst Jaret Seiberg told clients recently. “The policy environment will make it more expensive to be a mortgage servicer, which will hurt profitability,” he wrote.

Seiberg added in a follow-up note Tuesday, after the release of the Lawsky letter, that “if Ocwen intentionally misdated letters to deprive borrowers of modifications, then it could be exposed to serious legal liability,” especially if the loans in question were backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Highly critical lawmakers in Congress have called for capital requirements on nonbank servicers. Ocwen, Nationstar and others responded last month and are organizing a new trade group in Washington to represent their interests.

Isaac Boltansky, an analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading, believes the Federal Housing Finance Agency will this fall outline capital and liquidity standards for servicers, which could go into effect as early as first quarter 2015, he said last month after Ginnie Mae released a 20-page assessment of the sector.

 

 

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If I owe money, why bother fighting the charges?

banks-cooperationThis is a very important question, and the one that leads many people down the wrong path when dealing with a lawsuit filed against them by a creditor. Many individuals, upon learning they’ve been sued, are tempted to give up and do nothing about it. This is entirely the wrong attitude to have in this situation for a variety of reasons. If your debt situation is such that a creditor is suing you, you need to take control and make sure that things don’t get worse than the already are.

The main reason to act quickly is that the court can make a judgment on the case if you wait too long, even if you don’t say or do anything. This is an ideal situation for a collection agency. They gain the right to some  of your wages and assets, and they don’t have to pay any additional court fees. In fact, you may also have to pay the amount that it costs to bring the lawsuit to court, adding additional debt to those which you already owe.

Even though you do have an obligation to repay the debts you owe, fighting a creditor lawsuit can be beneficial to you in a number of ways. It all starts with consulting a bankruptcy attorney to understand what your creditor(s) can and cannot do, as well as what your options are moving forward. Most bankruptcy attorneys, such as Ted A Greene here at The Law Offices of Ted A. Greene, Inc., will offer you a free consultation and review your court papers to see if there are any discrepancies or abuses on the part of the collection agency. Meeting with a bankruptcy attorney will help you better understand your debt situation and what you need to do to ensure long-term financial health. So don’t delay – take action today if you’re being sued by a creditor!