A national mortgage servicing company will pay $2 million and undertake affordable loan modifications for affected Massachusetts homeowners, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. The settlement resolves allegations that Caliber Homes Loans Inc. (Caliber) failed to help borrowers avoid foreclosure and instead gave homeowners unaffordable loan modifications with ballooning monthly payments they could not afford.
In an assurance of discontinuance filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Caliber has agreed to provide restitution and loan modifications to homeowners in Massachusetts and change its business practices to comply with state law.
“Mortgage servicing companies have a duty to help Massachusetts residents avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes,” said AG Healey. “Our settlement with Caliber will provide relief to borrowers across the state and sends a clear message that we will protect homeowners when companies break the law.”
The AG’s Office alleges Caliber violated the Massachusetts Act Preventing Unlawful and Unnecessary Foreclosures, known as “35B,” a landmark law passed in 2012 that protects certain borrowers from foreclosure. The law requires creditors to make a good faith effort to avoid foreclosure for borrowers whose mortgage loans have unfair subprime terms.
The AG’s Office began its investigation after observing through the AG’s consumer assistance work that Caliber predominantly offered struggling homeowners loan modifications with payments that were temporarily lower and only covered the interest due on the loan each month. After a few years, however, borrowers would see their mortgage payments balloon to an amount even higher than what they originally were paying and could not afford, setting borrowers up to again face foreclosure.
The AG’s investigation found that Caliber favored these short-term, interest-only loan modifications over permanent, affordable modifications even in cases where a permanent modification was commercially reasonable. The company also routinely gave borrowers the runaround about missing documents required for the loan modification review process.
Under the terms of the settlement, Caliber will provide loan modification relief to Massachusetts borrowers who applied for modifications and were foreclosed upon due in part to Caliber’s conduct. Caliber will also institute a new loan modification program and review Massachusetts borrowers currently on interest-only or short-term modifications to provide them a more sustainable, affordable modification.
The AG’s Office has been a national leader in securing restitution and other relief for borrowers from banks and servicers. The office has obtained recoveries and other relief from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Countrywide, Fremont Investment & Loan, Option One, HSBC, Ditech, Nationstar Mortgage, Shellpoint Mortgage Servicing, PHH and others on behalf of Massachusetts homeowners.
Consumers with questions or concerns about deceptive or abusive foreclosure and loan servicing practices can call the Attorney General’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint with the office.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Michael Lecaroz and Lisa Dyen and Division Chief Max Weinstein, all of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division.