BofA Begins Large-Scale Principal Reduction For 'Underwater' Homeowners
In advance of its annual shareholders meeting Wednesday in Charlotte, Bank of America has announced a major step toward helping some of its customers avoid foreclosure. One of the big complaints we'll hear from protesters at the BofA shareholders meeting is summed up here by Antonio Ennis of the Unity Alliance: "You promised to give 200,000 families principal reduction . . . when? What families? When is this gonna happen?" Tuesday, Bank of America gave the answer. This week letters are arriving at the homes of more than 200,000 customers whose mortgages are more than their homes are worth. As part of a settlement with attorneys general in 49 states, Bank of America agreed to spend billions of dollars reducing the amount of principal owed by homeowners who are "underwater." The bank says it will reduce the principal balance to as low as the current market value of the home. Customers who qualify could save an average of 30 percent on mortgage payments, adds the bank. To be eligible, a homeowner must have been at least 60 days behind on payments as of January 31, 2012. Critics of "principal reduction" say it rewards delinquent borrowers. Bank of America is bound by the settlement with attorneys general to spend approximately $7.6 billion in borrower assistance, including principal reduction.