Ocwen slammed by Treasury’s special inspector

012210 met ocwen 1.jpg

Ocwen Financial Group long has been a punching bag for regulators, and the West Palm Beach-based loan servicer finds itself taken to task again in a quarterly report from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Released Friday, the report’s summary of Ocwen’s performance spans just over a page, and includes nine uses of “wrongfully,” along with one instance each of “improperly,” “misconduct” and “mismanagement.” Among the findings:

“Treasury continued to find in 2014 through 2016 that Ocwen wrongfully cancelled homeowners out of [the Home Affordable Mortgage Program]. More than 127,000 homeowners who were in a HAMP modification with Ocwen have fallen out of HAMP. Ocwen was paid in excess of $725 million through HAMP for these cancelled homeowners. More than 30,000 of these homeowners went into foreclosure or otherwise lost their home.”

“Treasury has found that Ocwen wrongfully cancelled people out of HAMP based on Ocwen’s own misconduct similar to the conduct in Ocwen’s enforcement action. Ocwen cancelled homeowners out of HAMP finding that they had missed three payments, when in reality homeowners made the payments, but Ocwen held mortgage payments in suspense, improperly reversed and later reapplied mortgage payments, and did not timely post payments made to an Ocwen lockbox. Treasury does not know how many homeowners Ocwen has wrongfully cancelled out of HAMP.

“Ocwen’s denial of 68 percent of those who applied for HAMP should be looked at through the lens of the enforcement action which found that Ocwen ‘improperly denied loan modifications.’”

“With Treasury contracted to pay up to another scheduled $2.2 billion and possibly an additional $941 million to Ocwen, continued oversight over these billions of dollars and this program remains critical.”

UPDATE: Ocwen offers this statement:

“Ocwen led the industry in HAMP modifications during the life of the program, and we are extremely proud of our performance and our success. As of September 2016, Ocwen has helped 330,000 struggling borrowers remain in their homes under the HAMP program. We took our participation in the HAMP program very seriously and made significant investments in our risk and compliance management infrastructure in that time.

Under the umbrella of The U.S. Department of the Treasury, we believe the HAMP program has been successful in keeping borrowers in their homes and has executed rigorous oversight over servicers.  

We remain committed to working with distressed borrowers to find the right loan modification to allow them to keep their homes while continuing to provide cash flow for loan investors. There is no doubt that a homeowner whose loan is serviced by Ocwen has a much better chance of avoiding foreclosure than if their loan is serviced by any other large mortgage servicer. This has been confirmed by independent third-party studies, which consistently illustrate that Ocwen has a superior record helping borrowers bring their payments current, stay current, and repay their mortgage. This is a record we are proud of.”

Palm Beach County foreclosures plunge

Sign_of_the_Times-Foreclosure

Palm Beach County foreclosures fell to pre-crash levels in 2015, according to data released Thursday by RealtyTrac.

There were 10,451 homes in some stage of foreclosure last year. That’s down from a peak of 43,438 in 2010 and the lowest since 2006, when the housing bubble was still inflating.

Measured another way, only 1.6 percent of Palm Beach County homes were in foreclosure in 2015, down from a peak of 6.8 percent in 2010.

The trend is similar in Florida, where foreclosures are off 67 percent from 2010 to 2015. Still, Florida ranks No. 2 among all states with 1.8 percent of homes in foreclosure. Only New Jersey’s 1.9 percent was worse.

Renaissance Commons shopping center sells for $18.2 million

Renaissance Commons shopping center
Renaissance Commons shopping center

The Renaissance Commons shopping center in Boynton Beach has sold for $18.2 million to Cohen Commercial Properties.

The seller was Wells Fargo affiliate Redus One LLC, which took title to the property after foreclosure. Dan Coyle, Stiles Realty director of retail services, represented the seller and buyer. Stiles has been managing the property since Wells Fargo foreclosed in 2014.

Renaissance Commons shopping center is a 62,573-square-foot property on the corner of Congress Avenue and Gateway Boulevard. The center includes Bonefish Grill, Starbucks, Village Tavern Restaurant and AT&T. The property is 80 percent leased and features a new tenant, Strep’s Restaurant.

The shopping center is surrounded by office condos, office rentals and a self-storage facility.

The property was developed by Boca Raton-based Compson Associates.

Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund hampered by nation’s worst record

Sign_of_the_Times-Foreclosure

Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund has accepted the smallest percentage of applicants of any state, a federal inspector general said Wednesday.

Only 20.5 percent of Florida borrowers who applied to the federal program were accepted, according to the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Not only are few Floridians helped by the Hardest Hit Fund, those that are must endure long waits. Out-of-work Florida homeowners seeking unemployment assistance through the program had to wait a median of 167 days, the inspector general said.

UPDATE: Florida’s acceptance rates are low because the state program doesn’t weed out applicants who might not qualify, said Cecka Green, spokeswoman for the Florida Housing Finance Corp., which runs the state’s $1 billion Hardest Hit Fund.

“Because we don’t do any type of pre-screening, that’s one of the reasons it looks like our denial rate is higher,” Green said. “It’s really apples-to-oranges.”

Other states screen applicants, she said.