After two previous deadline extensions, this time they really mean it. If you were targeted for foreclosure during 2009 or 2010 by one of 27 banks or mortgage servicers whose practices raised concern among federal regulators, you have only until Monday - Dec. 31 - to request a free, independent review of what happened.
The review could lead to compensation, from as little as $500 for improper fees to as much as $125,000 plus lost equity for the most egregious mistakes or improprieties, said Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, one of two federal banking agencies that ordered the reviews.
More than 4.3 million homeowners are eligible because that's how many faced foreclosure - initiated, pending or completed - by one of the 27 firms during the two years. By early this month, about 329,000 homeowners or former homeowners had requested a review, Hubbard said.
Hubbard said the regulators had directed the review of an additional 159,000 files that fall into particular categories, such as foreclosures that might be affected by bankruptcy rules or that involve military personnel covered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Beyond such problem areas, identified through an earlier sampling of foreclosure files, the regulators do not have a target number in mind, Hubbard said.
"The whole purpose of the review is to determine the number of errors, and we do not know that number in advance," he said. "If you have a specific error that you're aware of, we encourage you to request a review. There could have been an error in approving a loan modification, or errors involving fees."
What the agencies do know - and what prompted the process - is that something went wrong at the 27 institutions during the depths of the slump that followed the 2008 financial crisis.
"The process is the result of an interagency exam in the fourth quarter of 2010 that identified unsafe, unsound, and deficient practices among these servicers with regard to mortgage servicing and foreclosure processing," Hubbard said.
Borrowers with mortgages serviced by 14 banks and 13 of their subsidiaries or affiliates are eligible. The banks are Ally, Aurora Bank, Bank of America, Citi, EverBank, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, OneWest, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, US Bank, and Wells Fargo.
For the entire list, additional information, and an online application, go to IndependentForeclosureReview.com. You can also call 1-888-952-9105 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time, or until 5 p.m. Saturday.
Hubbard said that to meet the deadline, borrowers have to complete a request-for-review form online at IndependentForeclosureReview.com, or mail a form that should have been sent to all eligible borrowers with a postmark by Dec. 31.
Several organizations have offered help to those confused by the process. In the Philadelphia area, contact the Urban League at 215-985-3220, Ext. 201, for information. Hubbard said assistance was also being offered by NeighborWorks America (1-888-995-4673) and the National Council of La Raza.
Hubbard said borrowers give up no rights by requesting the reviews, including the rights to file suit on their own or to be aided by the multibillion-dollar National Mortgage Settlement reached by the federal government and 49 states' attorneys general with the nation's largest mortgage servicers: Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.
If you qualify for that, you should eventually be contacted. For information, go to www.NationalMortgageSettlement.com.