By NATASHA SINGER
Bank of America has started sending letters to thousands of homeowners in the United States, offering to forgive a portion of the principal balance on their mortgages by an average of $150,000 each.The reduction for qualifying homeowners could amount to monthly savings of up to 35 percent on mortgage payments, Bank of America said in a news release on Monday evening.
The principal reduction offers from Bank of America Home Loans are the result of a $25 billion settlement agreement earlier this year with 49 state attorneys general as well as federal authorities who had been investigating allegations of abuses over the handling of foreclosures.
“To the extent principal reduction and other modification tools help us turn mortgages headed for possible foreclosure into long-term performing loans, it will be positive for homeowners, mortgage investors and communities,” Ron Sturzenegger, a legacy asset servicing executive, said in the statement.
The bank said it planned to contact more than 200,000 homeowners who could be candidates for the offers, sending letters to a majority of them by the third quarter of this year.
To be eligible for the principal reductions, however, homeowners will have to meet certain criteria, including: having a loan owned or serviced by Bank of America; owing more on the mortgage than their property is worth; and being at least 60 days behind on payments as of the end of January.
In the statement, the bank said it had started making such offers in March to a narrower group of homeowners — those who were already in the process of seeking mortgage modification. The bank estimated that the earlier wave of trial reduction offers to about 5,000 people could amount to more than $700 million in forgiven principal. But homeowners have to make at least three timely payments for the reductions to become permanent.