Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) has introduced legislation to assist struggling homeowners seeking loan modifications through the often complex Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). The Office of the Homeowner Advocate Act of 2010 creates an independent office to assist homeowners, housing counselors and attorneys in resolving problems with HAMP, and give homeowners a greater level of control over the loan modification application process. “While the housing markets in the Inland Empire are showing signs of recovery, too many homeowners still find themselves needing assistance in order to keep their homes,” said Rep. Baca. “And while the government run loan modification program is well-intentioned, I have heard from numerous constituents whose applications either get lost in a flood of paperwork or do not receive the proper attention from officials before it is too late to prevent the foreclosure process. This responsible bill would create an outside office, the Office of the Homeowner Advocate, to improve the HAMP process and ensure all eligible homeowners get a fair shot at keeping their homes.” Legislative language establishing the Office of the Homeowner Advocate (OHA) has already been introduced in the U.S. Senate as an amendment proposed by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). This language has subsequently been included in S. 3793 the Job Creation and Tax Cuts Act introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). The HAMP program was initiated by the Obama Administration as part of a comprehensive response to the foreclosure crisis that swept the nation. The new Office of the Homeowner Advocate (OHA) would be charged with identifying areas where homeowners are having problems dealing with HAMP, and recommending necessary administrative and legislative changes to the program. Most importantly, the OHA would give the homeowners control over their HAMP application. If a claim has been opened by the OHA on behalf of a homeowner, the servicer would be prohibited from moving forward with a foreclosure until the claim is resolved, even if the servicer believes they have fully assessed the homeowner’s eligibility for a modification. The legislation establishes that the OHA would have an independent director, appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury, with a background as an advocate for homeowners and have experience dealing with servicers. Additionally, the director would not be allowed to have worked for either a servicer or the Department of the Treasury within the past four years. “Too many American families have fallen victim to the predatory lending practices that dominated much of the home mortgage market,” said Rep. Baca. “Congress and the current administration have taken concrete steps to help struggling families keep their homes. But we must have the necessary follow through to ensure the initiatives we have put in place are working efficiently and effectively. I believe this legislation will help to lower the number of foreclosures, and serve an important step in the right direction to ensure the HAMP program is operating in the most beneficial manner possible.” For more information, visit www.house.gov/baca.
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