Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Free workshops for consumers who are buying a home or refinancing a mortgage

BALTIMORE, MD -- Civil Justice Inc., the Howard County Office of Consumer Affairs, the Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development and the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC) are partnering this week to help Maryland residents understand the importance of avoiding the tricks and traps that far too often accompany home buying and mortgage refinancing. During “Mortgage Fraud Prevention Week,” consumer attorneys will explain why it’s worth getting legal help when purchasing a home, refinancing a mortgage or taking out a reverse mortgage, and they will explain how consumers can receive free legal advice during the purchasing or refinancing process.

"Civil Justice has worked with hundreds of Marylanders who were misled and deceived regarding the terms of their mortgages when they purchased their homes or refinanced their mortgages,” said attorney Diane Cipollone, manager of the Maryland Mortgage Fraud Prevention Program at Civil Justice. “Had these homeowners who are struggling with payments or facing foreclosure on predatory loans consulted with an attorney prior to settlement, they would have been informed about the deceptive and unaffordable terms of these loans and would never have signed the mortgage agreements. The only common factor among victims of such practices is that they did not have independent legal advice prior to signing their documents.”

Rebecca Bowman, Administrator of the Howard County Office of Consumer Affairs, urged people to get information before signing on the dotted line.

“Too often, our office hears from people after they have already become victims of predatory real estate and lending practices,” Bowman said. “The workshop in Howard County will provide the public with tips on avoiding deceptive practices and provide an opportunity to meet with attorneys who can review their paperwork before settlement.”

As part of Mortgage Fraud Prevention Week, the following workshops will be offered:

• November 4: 6:00-8:00 pm “More in the Middle—Financial Fitness” workshop at Impact Pentecostal Fellowship Church, Essex, MD. Sponsored by Associated Black Charities and Church of God in Christ (COGIC)

• November 5: 10:00-12:00 noon Legislative Black Caucus Annual Conference, Lowe House Office Building, Appropriations Committee Room 120, Annapolis, MD

• November 6: 9:30 am-1:00 pm “What’s In YOUR Loan? - Mortgage Fraud Awareness Workshop,” Bain Senior Center, Columbia, MD
This event will offer participants an opportunity to ask a panel of attorneys questions about home buying and mortgages as well as the chance to meet one-on-one with an attorney free of charge, but advance registration for this service is required; contact mfp@civiljusticenetwork.org or call Erica Evans at Civil Justice at 410-706-0174.

“We commend Civil Justice, Inc. for holding this session and encouraging homeowners and prospective homeowners to seek assistance from an attorney and housing counselor before they sign real estate or mortgage loan documents,” said Mark Kaufman, Maryland’s Commissioner of Financial Regulation. “The process of buying your first home or refinancing your mortgage is complicated and it is important to be informed and understand the consequences.”

Kaufman’s office encourages anyone having trouble paying his or her mortgage to call the Maryland Hope Hotline at 877-462-7555 or go to www.mdhope.org. And Marylanders who feel they may have been a victim of mortgage fraud are encouraged to call the Commissioner’s office at 410-230-6077 or complete a complaint form at http://www.dllr.state.md.us/finance/consumers.

“The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition is working to enact policies that would curtail mortgage fraud and home foreclosures,” said MCRC Executive Director Marceline White, “but it is equally important to educate consumers on ways they can avoid problems from the outset.”


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