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Feds to monitor mortgage servicing

Consumer advocates in Maryland said Thursday they were encouraged by news this week that the Office of the National Settlement Monitor would impose and monitor a series of new metrics and assessments to see if major banks are meeting new servicing standards. The standards were mandated by a national mortgage settlement made last year in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.

The announcement “underscores the very serious problems thousands of families continue to suffer in getting good information about their mortgage modification applications and fair treatment from the big banks,” said Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition Executive Director Marceline White.

Under the settlement with Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, made with 49 state attorneys general, the banks agreed to work under more than 300 improved mortgage servicing standards designed to wipe out past institutional problems of abuse.

Yet since the documents were inked, thousands of homeowners in the state have spoken out that they “continue to struggle to get accurate information or fair and prompt consideration of their loan modification application from the banks,” MCRC officials said.

“We find it deeply troubling that many of the mortgage servicing abuses that helped cause the foreclosure crisis continue to plague consumers more than 18 months after the (settlement),” White said in a statement.

In a progress report filed by the monitor’s office in August, Maryland statistics showed that 17,366 families received some form of mortgage relief under the settlement between March 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013. Yet the banks completed more than three times as many second-lien extinguishments — 6,833 — as first-lien modifications — 2,235 — or refinancing agreements — 2,172, the data show. The number of short sales under the settlement — 3,720 — is almost twice that of total principal reduction or refinancing agreements.

Maryland received nearly $900 million under the settlement. Some of the funds are being used in Baltimore to help raze vacant homes in blighted neighborhoods under the Vacants to Value program administered by the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

“The settlement was intended to help underwater homeowners and victims of predatory mortgage lending save their homes from foreclosure,” White said. “We’re very disappointed that the forms of relief the banks have focused on offering are ones that do very little to help families stay in their homes and their communities.”

This week, New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he was working to file a lawsuit against Wells Fargo. The suit would charge that the bank has not abided by the terms of the settlement, Schneiderman said.

Matan Cos. broke ground this week on the 376-unit Prospect Hall Apartments in Frederick.

The garden-style rental development will have 13 buildings when it is completed in summer 2014. Features will include a luxury clubhouse with a pool, high-end appliances and finishes in the apartments and garages.

“We have identified a strong need in the Frederick market for high quality, well located multi-family units, and Prospect Hall Apartments will certainly meet that need,” said Karl Morris, director of development for 35-year-old, Frederick-based Matan.

Financing was provided by Wells Fargo; Morgan Keller, of Frederick, will be the project’s general contractor; Stellar Advisors, of Rockville, will market, lease and manage the development.

Under Armour’s new visitor’s center is set to officially open this week in Locust Point.

Called the “Under Armour Station House,” the center will be the latest addition to the sprawling waterfront campus of the popular athletic apparel maker, headquartered in Charm City. The station house will serve as a “home base” for UA employees and will offer limited UA products for sale. It will also have a small café on the second floor, officials said.

The UA logo proudly sits atop the building.

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