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LAWMAKERS URGED TO FIGHT FORECLOSURES
GROUP SAYS UTAHNS HAVE NEARLY LOST HOMES DUE TO MORTGAGE FIRMS’ ERRORS

SHARE LAWMAKERS URGED TO FIGHT FORECLOSURES
GROUP SAYS UTAHNS HAVE NEARLY LOST HOMES DUE TO MORTGAGE FIRMS’ ERRORS

Help Save Homes, a Logan-based citizens' group, has mobilized lawmakers on the state and national level to investigate the foreclosure of homes by mortgage companies and consider state and federal laws to prevent such unwarranted actions.

The group held a press conference at the Capitol Wednesday to announce the formation of two committees composed of citizens and state legislators that will examine the scope of the foreclosure problem and weigh the need for legislation.Representatives for Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam spoke at the press conference in support of the group's efforts and pledged the two men's support in searching for state and federal remedies to the problem.

Group spokeswoman Cynthia Prante told horror stories of Cache Valley homeowners who nearly lost their homes despite their ability and desire to pay. The homeowners blame their problems on errors by the mortgage companies.

Most of the problems were created by a Texas-based mortgage company, according to survey data handed out by the group. However, the group has also heard similar stories from homeowners using other mortgage companies.

"Hundreds of Utah homeowners are losing money, self-respect and even their homes to negligent, misunderstood, unfair or even unscrupulous home mortgage practices," Prante said.

Utah has no laws that protect homeowners, Prante said. First-mortgage holders are not covered by Utah's Consumer Credit Code.

"Your refrigerator is better protected than your home," she said. "Currently the Department of Housing and Urban Development is the only place for homeowners to turn and then only for government homes."

Richard Bell, a spokesman for the agency, said HUD needs to "intensify our focus on keeping people in their homes."

Stewart Curtis, a board member of the Utah Mortgage Bankers Association, urged legislators to be cautious in further regulating mortgage companies. In a recent report, Utah had the second highest delinquency rate on home payments in the nation, he said. Nearly 7 percent of Utah's home mortgages are in default, meaning 30 days in arrears, he explained.

Because Utah does not have enough capital in the state to finance all of its mortgages, it depends heavily on the involvement of out-of-state mortgage companies. The state's high delinquency rate already makes the Utah market unappealing to some mortgage companies.

Additional laws could worsen the problem, critics fear.

Help Save Homes is holding a public hearing Thursday at 7 p.m. on the third floor of the Northeast Building, of the Ogden Human Services Complex, 2650 Lincoln, Ogden. The purpose of the hearing is to gauge the scope of the problem in Utah. All homeowners are invited to attend.

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Complaints

A survey of 96 homeowners in Cache Valley showed:

-55 reported the wrongful assessment of late fees.

-31 reported insurance errors.

-47 said their payments were misplaced by the mortgage company.

-42 said the company inappropriately increased their mortgage payments.

-35 cited loss of credit rating due to the company.

-38 reported incidents where the company refused to accept their payments.

-More than half said they had received a wrongful default or foreclosure threat.