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Foreclosed NH homeowners to get settlement checks

Lynne Tuohy, Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- More than 4,000 New Hampshire residents who lost their homes to foreclosure will receive checks this month as part of the $26 billion national mortgage settlement involving five of the nation's largest lenders.

Attorney General Joseph Foster announced Tuesday that checks averaging nearly $1,500 each will be mailed next week by the settlement's national administrator, Chicago-based Rust Consulting. The checks will go to those whose homes were foreclosed on from 2008 to 2011 by one of the five banks: Bank of America Corp., Citi, JPMorgan Chase & co., Wells Fargo & Co., and Ally — formerly GMAC.

Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti acknowledged that the payments aren't enough to compensate people for what they lost because of fraudulent or misleading banking practices.

"These folks lost their homes," Boffetti said. "This is not a substantial payment. It's something, but it's not meant to compensate them for the loss they suffered."

Boffetti, who heads the attorney general's consumer protection and antitrust bureau, said the payments totaling $6 million could provide a nice boost to the state's economy.

Relying on unofficial figures that still need to be verified by the settlement's national monitor, Boffetti said the five banks provided about $65 million in direct relief to New Hampshire homeowners in the form of principal reduction or short-sale relief — more than twice the amount state officials had anticipated.

The banks also reduced interest rates to distressed homeowners by roughly $8.5 million to date, Boffetti said.

"It looks like we are close to the banks having met their obligations," Boffetti said. The $26 billion settlement involving 49 states and the federal government was announced in February 2012.

Close to 5,000 New Hampshire residents who had their homes foreclosed on were eligible for the payments, and Boffetti said his staff worked hard to track them down and offer assistance in filling out the applications. Checks are being mailed to 4,067 New Hampshire borrowers.

"I'm really pleased that our response rate was so high and that New Hampshire's citizens took advantage of this part of the settlement," Boffetti said.

New Hampshire officials used the bulk of $10 million paid directly to the state to fund a three-year program to provide counseling and legal assistance to any qualified homeowner struggling with mortgage payments or facing foreclosure. Those seeking assistance should dial 211.

Boffetti said working on the settlement has been the most rewarding part of his career with the attorney general's office,

"When you can keep someone in their home, that's a good day," he said.