With a recent announcement from the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, though, it's hard to argue that homeowners are getting an unfair windfall. Given what happened to these homeowners, the compensation they're getting seems perfectly reasonable as a quick way to settle what otherwise could become a massive morass of litigation.
Foreclosures gone wrong
Last week, the Fed and the OCC announced a framework under which banks that improperly foreclosed on homeowners' properties would compensate homeowners for their mistakes. The figure that has drawn the most headlines is that homeowners could receive as much as $125,000 from banks under the program.
But this isn't just another government handout. For one thing, money is coming directly from the 14 mortgage servicing companies that made the mistakes. So while shareholders of the companies, which include PNC Mortgage (PNC) and Citigroup (C), could suffer, taxpayers won't see any hit.
What's fair is fair
More important, though, is that the biggest payments are reserved for situations in which homeowners actually had their homes taken away from them improperly, and in which the bank or other mortgage servicer can't undo the damage and get the home back in the hands of the homeowner.
Moreover, if the bank or servicing company can get homeowners back in their homes, then any payments are far less. For instance, banks that rescind foreclosures and correct both credit reports and their own records would only have to pay $15,000 under the plan. That's not much when you consider the inconvenience that many homeowners have suffered from these mistakes.
Also, much smaller payments apply to less serious situations. For instance, servicers that violated the terms of federal loan modification programs by not contacting eligible homeowners would only have to pay $1,000.
Some of the complaints that homeowners have unfairly benefited from government programs related to housing are valid. But in this case, it's hard to argue that homeowners who were unfairly thrown out of their homes don't deserve what they'll get under this framework.
For more on housing and real estate:
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- 6 Simple Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a Home
- Homes for Rent, $208 a Month