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Investigation Underway into Mortgage Insurance Practices

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Newark, NJFollowing concerns regarding certain force-placed insurance companies and their practices comes news that a mortgage insurance investigation has been undertaken by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Though force-placed insurance differs from mortgage insurance, force-placed insurance lawsuits have also been filed against some banks and insurers, alleging their practices, including force-placed insurance terms, are illegal.

According to The Wall Street Journal (8/5/12), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched an investigation into American International Group, Genworth Financial Inc., and PPH Corp., to determine whether these groups violated real-estate regulations. The bureau is reportedly investigating whether the companies violated laws by paying banks in exchange for business.

Homebuyers who purchase a home with a down payment of less than 20 percent must usually purchase mortgage insurance, to protect the lender in case the borrower defaults on the mortgage. All companies under investigation have said they believe they comply with the appropriate laws.

Some states are now concerned about force-placed insurance practices, with at least three saying they may launch an investigation into the situation. Force-placed insurance pertains to homeowner's insurance - also known as property insurance. Bloomberg (8/10/12) reports that Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana have all expressed concern that rates could be too high and the force-placed insurance market is dominated by only two businesses.

Force-placed insurance protects lenders when homeowners allow their homeowner's insurance policies to lapse. According to Kevin McCarty, Florida's insurance commissioner (in Bloomberg), Assurant Inc. and QBE Insurance Group Ltd. control approximately 90 percent of the market. Premiums from force-placed insurance jumped from $1.5 billion in 2004 to $5.5 billion in 2010, with insurers paying out as little as 25 cents for every dollar they collect.

Force-placed insurance, while necessary in some situations, can be not only frustrating but financially hazardous to home owners. Paul Sullivan, writing for The New York Times (8/17/12), notes that it took him months to get force-placed flood insurance off his condominium, even though he had sufficient flood coverage. Worse, because force-placed insurance can be expensive, it can push financially strapped homeowners into foreclosure.

In April 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced it was considering new rules to protect mortgage borrowers. Among those rules are options for avoiding costly force-placed insurance. The bureau noted at the time that force-placed insurance, "is typically more expensive than insurance the borrower can purchase privately." New protection rules would require servicers to provide advance warning before charging consumers and providing information about pricing to borrowers.

Lawsuits filed against force-placed insurance companies allege the companies artificially inflate premiums by up to 10 times that of traditional homeowners' insurance. Furthermore, they allege that despite the increased costs, force-placed insurance typically has inferior coverage.


Force-Place Insurance Legal Help

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Wells Fargo has applied a force-placed insurance charge on my mortgage payment raising it from $462/month to $833.00 per month for 12 months (a total of insured policy $4560.00). My homeowner's insurance is $1365.00 from Farm Bureau. The "lapsed insurance is for a four-year-old period (August 2009 through July 2010.

Wells Fargo has never kept an escrow acc9ount for my insurance or tax payments. They did not send a policy and say it will take 2-3 weeks to do that. I never signed permission to apply any force-placed insurance. They are saying the forced insurance cost is now part of my mortgager. I continue to pay the mortgage amount but not the extra insurance cost as applier since AI cannot afford this added cost.


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