By Veronica Sandate Craker
State Attorney General Rob McKenna visited Apprisen Financial Advocates in Kennewick last week to promote local and free assistance to homeowners struggling to keep their homes.
“One of our messages here today is we want people who are struggling to stay in their homes today to know that these nonprofit counselors are available,” McKenna said.
Apprisen is a nonprofit consumer credit counseling service.
McKenna urged borrowers to reach out to organizations like Apprisen (formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Service) and steer clear of companies offering assistance in exchange for an upfront fee.
“We’ve received many, many complaints from consumers who’ve paid money thousands of dollars in some cases and really received no benefit,” he said.
Laurie Tufford, Apprisen’s regional director of partnerships, introduced two local homeowners whom the nonprofit had helped. Aileen Eriksen or Burbank said she was able to save her home from foreclosure thanks to the help of Apprisen credit counselor Sandy Paradiso.
Mike Zook said he sought help from Yvonne Fengler, an Apprisen housing counselor, after his income fell below his mortgage payment.
“She outlined what was going to happen and it happened exactly as she said — everything right down the line and there was no fee,” Zook said. “That was the good part cause if you can afford to pay a fee you can afford to make your house payment and that’s just common sense.”
In a separate announcement, McKenna confirmed that a federal judge has formalized a record $25 billion multi-state mortgage settlement with the nations five largest banks, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally Financial.
“So last week the judge took the settlement we reached and actually entered it as a court order,” McKenna said. “That means it’s enforceable by the court now and importantly it also means that the money the banks are going to be providing directly to homeowners through loan modification and revised and also for homeownership assistance through this agency will now become available. The check is almost literally in the mail coming out to the states.”
Washington will receive an estimated $650 million in total relief, most of which will go toward homeowners in the form of loan modifications and in some cases in refinancing and principal reduction.
Homeowners wanting to find out if they qualify for refinancing help should visit nationalmortgagesettlement.com and contact their bank to verify that the bank is still holding their loan.
“For everybody else, including people who do not have their loans with those five banks, there’s also good news there, because in that $650 million there’s about $45 million coming to our state to help anybody who’s in trouble,” McKenna said. “This money will be going out in grants that we’ll be making to homeowner assistance programs. We will then be able to continue funding these HUD approved nonprofit housing counselors, we will be providing pro bono legal services through the state bar association — in other words we’re going to be able to keep these programs going.”
McKenna said he would be making multiple stops across the state to get the message out about free, secure help for borrowers.
“We want people to know here in the Tri-Cities that help is available at no cost from great agencies like (Apprisen) and we want them to take advantage of that if they’re struggling to stay in their home,” McKenna said. “We want them to get the expert help.”
He urged struggling homeowners to the Washington Homeownership Information hotline at 1-877-894-HOME.