Consumer warning issued on mortgage transmitting

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions is telling consumers to use caution when dealing with mortgage-payment companies, after the agency  issued a statement of charges against Nationwide Biweekly Administration Inc., a company that accepts and transmits mortgage payments on behalf of Washington homeowners.

State officials contend that the company operated without holding the required license as a money transmitter, and made misleading statements to consumers leading them to believe that they would save money by having Nationwide repay their mortgage for them.

As Nationwide was unlicensed, consumers were not protected by the required bonding, investments and the periodic examinations required under the Uniform Money Services Act, found in RCW 19.230.

The state seeks to impose a $150,000 fine against Nationwide as well as restitution of all fees collected by Nationwide.

“Companies transmitting mortgage payments are uniquely positioned to cause injury to borrowers by failing to transmit borrower funds or mishandling mortgage payments, the consequences of which can be very serious to the borrower,” Deborah Bortner, the DFI’s Division of Consumer Services’ director, said in a news release. “It is critical that money transmitters handling mortgage payments comply with the law, especially our state’s licensing requirements, because such requirements are in place to add a layer of consumer protection.”

In its charges, the state alleges that Nationwide’s advertising was deceptive and misled consumers as to whom the company represented and how often their payments would be transmitted.

Consumers should use caution, state officials say, when dealing with any company offering to transmit mortgage payments on their behalf, and verify that any such company is licensed to do so.

The state received a number of complaints from consumers who said they believed Nationwide was affiliated with their lenders or with government agencies, when in fact it was not. Consumers also complained that they did not understand the fees charged for the payment program, or the frequency with which their mortgage payments would be transmitted, according to state officials.

Many companies contact homeowners and offer to transmit mortgage payments to their lenders on a biweekly basis rather than a monthly basis. Doing so may allow homeowners to save money on interest payments over the life of their loans. However, these companies may in fact transmit payments less frequently, resulting in reduced savings to homeowners.

The Uniform Money Services Act authorizes the state to file charges against companies believed to have violated the act. The charges are not a finding or order that the respondents have actually violated the act; all named respondents have the right to request an administrative hearing on the charges.

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