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IN Nears Permanent Protection Unit

Attorney General Steve Carter says consumers benefit from the unitís Focus on Mortgage Fraud

INDIANAPOLIS -- (April 6, 2007) -- Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter (http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/index.html) applauds the Indiana House and Senate for passing a measure that would give permanent status to the Homeowner Protection Unit (HPU) created nearly two years ago as a test program administered by the attorney general’s office. The Unit has filed 211 disciplinary actions against licensed appraisers and another 76 against licensed real estate agents & salespersons since its inception in mid-2005. The Unit is currently investigating another 750 complaints filed against appraisers and real estate agents and salespersons.

“The benefit of the unit is that it allows the relationship between appraiser, real estate agent, and lender to be analyzed in a coordinated way,” Carter said. “Making this Unit permanent is an important step for Hoosiers. We’ve made good strides the last year and a half and want to keep the momentum going. By raising awareness of the Unit, we hope that more people will recognize that there is a place to turn to for help if they believe they have been the victim of, or suspect, questionable business practices by individuals or companies in these professions.”

In 2004, the Legislature established the HPU under Indiana Code §24-9 in an effort to address predatory lending practices. These practices encompass acts such as inflated real estate appraisals, mortgage fraud and the offering of high cost home loans to some of Indiana’s most economically vulnerable citizens. The Unit is funded from mortgage filing and license renewal fees and equals approximately $500,000 per year. This funding was scheduled to end on June 30, 2007. HB 1210 has unanimously passed the Indiana House and Senate. It is now awaiting a concurrence (the House must now agree to minor changes made by the Senate before the bill would go to the Governor for his signature).

The focus of the Unit in the past two years as been to address the core of mortgage fraud – inflated real estate appraisals. Unwitting consumers are sold a home artificially appraised well above the actual value of the home. When the consumer attempts to refinance or sell the home, they discover that the home is tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars below the appraised value.

The two hundred eighty seven (287) actions by the attorney general’s office have been filed with their respective board housed under Indiana’s Professional Licensing Agency. The Unit has also filed a civil lawsuit against a Credit Service Organization that purported to provide ‘foreclosure consultant’ services.

“The permanent status of the HPU is a deterrent for those who would dare to engage in mortgage fraud, and is one more tool for Indiana in its fight to reverse a disturbing mortgage foreclosure trend,” Carter added.

The attorney general’s office investigates and pursues disciplinary action against licensed professionals in Indiana. These actions are taken before the license holders’ respective board for a final determination and order to be issued by that Board.

SOURCE: Office of the Indiana Attorney General

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