Last year the AARP sued the Department of Housing and Urban Development because of tactics that were being used to scam seniors in reverse mortgages.
Now Consumers Union, the group that brings us Consumer Reports magazine, is asking for stricter oversight of reverse mortgages. While reverse mortgages can be a lifesaver in certain situations, for most senior homeowners that particular route is full of potential danger.
Mortgage origination costs can be astronomical, draining away the equity. Scammers tie home-equity mortgages to other financial products. And, it learned, homeowners were found in default if they failed to pay property taxes or homeowners insurance.
The biggest concern, however, is if only one spouse’s name is on the paperwork. You can’t take a reverse mortgage unless you’re age 62. If only one spouse is that age, then only that person’s name goes on the paperwork. If that older spouse dies, the younger spouse can be evicted from the home if he or she can’t come up with all the money to immediately pay off the mortgage.
Consumers Union is asking for a number of safeguards:
¥ Ensure that the loan is suitable for borrowers and won’t put them at risk.
¥ Establish a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the homeowner.
¥ Outlaw deceptive marketing.
¥ Prohibit mingling a reverse mortgage with other financial products.
¥ Strengthen the pre-mortgage counseling that homeowners are required to have.
¥ And the big one: protect the non-borrowing spouse.
TIP: Did you know you can get an online subscription to Consumer Reports? It’s much handier than trying to store back copies of the magazine. Visit consumerreports.org to decide if you’re interested. Call 1-800-333-0663 to subscribe instead of putting your credit-card number online.
Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send email to email@example.com.
(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.