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MARS to the Rescue: New Set of Consumer Protections for Distressed Homeowners

Score one for the consumer!

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a new set of protections for America’s homeowners. The Mortgage Assistance Relief Service Rule (MARS) affords greater consumer safeguards against mortgage foreclosure relief outfits.

As of January 31, businesses that claim they can negotiate with mortgage lenders or servicers to obtain loan modifications, short sales, or other relief from foreclosure, can no longer charge advance or up-front fees from consumers. These businesses now have certain requirements to satisfy before they’re entitled to any fees. They must first acquire from the lender or servicer a written offer and document explaining the key changes to the mortgage. They must then notify the homeowner both of the terms of the relief remedy offer and that she is free to reject it without obligation. The company can only collect fees after the consumer accepts the offer and chooses to continue business with the mortgage assistance relief operation.

MARS aims to combat deceptive and unfair practices by dubious operations that have sprung up from the mortgage crisis. These so-called relief outfits promised financially distressed homeowners that they could avoid foreclosure or get their loans modified in exchange for sometimes steep up-front fees. Over the past three years, the FTC has brought 32 cases against such businesses, and state and federal law enforcement partners have filed hundreds more. Under MARS, however, these mortgage assistance relief businesses can’t collect a penny until they get their customers what they want.

If you’re behind on your mortgage or facing foreclosure, and have questions about how the new FTC rules affect you, please contact me at 813.251.2701 or charlie@flapropertylaw.com.

Please be advised that this article does not constitute legal advice nor does it provide any basis to form an attorney-client relationship. Nothing in this article should be copied without the express permission of the author.

Mr. Hounchell has a law degree from The University of Florida College of Law and he is a partner in The Law Offices of Charles A. Hounchell, P.A. � Attorneys & Counselors at Law, in Tampa, Florida. Mr. Hounchell obtained his undergraduate degree from The George Washington University in Washington D.C. and he obtained his MBA in International Management from the American Graduate School of International Management (“Thunderbird”) in Glendale, Arizona..

Mr. Hounchell is a licensed real estate agent with Smith and Associates, Inc. www.smithandassociates.com; www.livecasanova.com. He has lived in many different countries, including Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Germany and he speaks Spanish and Portuguese. A significant portion of Mr. Hounchell’s law practice is concentrated on Real Estate Law. He can be reached at 813-230-3376 or charlie@floridapropertylaw.com