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Foreclosure freeze coming for the holidays

By Les Christie, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Several of the big mortgage players are playing Santa Claus again this year, saying they will not evict borrowers in default during the two weeks surrounding Christmas.

Freddie Mac (FMCC) and Fannie Mae (FNMA), the two government-controlled mortgage giants, are freezing all foreclosure evictions on mortgage loans they own or back from Dec. 20 through Jan.3.

Evictions mark the end of the foreclosure process. After the home is sold at foreclosure auction -- or banks take possession of the home -- owners must leave the property or face eviction notices.

"If the property is occupied, our foreclosure attorneys will suspend the eviction to provide a greater measure of certainty to families during the holidays," said Anthony Renzi, executive vice president of single family portfolio management at Freddie Mac.

For some of the big private banks, who also usually observe a freeze during the holidays, the situation is a little different this year, thanks to moratoriums they already have in place because of the robo-signing scandal.

That freeze was initiated to give the banks time to examine whether they violated any legal procedures in processing foreclosures and to correct and refile questionable documents they uncover.

A spokesman for Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), Rick Simon, said that made addressing this year's situation a little awkward but it would still observe its usual holiday policy.

"Bank of America's practice in recent years [is to hold off on] foreclosure sales or evictions from late December through New Year's Day on loans held in our investment portfolio or that are owned by investors who give the bank delegated authority," he said.

It will continue the foreclosure process for loans it services that are held by investors who decline to participate in the freeze and for properties that are known to be vacant.

A spokesman for Chase Mortgage, a division of J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), said its robo-signing-connected moratorium makes an additional holiday freeze moot; it will still be several weeks before it starts to evict borrowers again.

Wells Fargo's (WFC, Fortune 500) holiday freeze will run the same two week period as Fannie's and Freddie's and will, like Bank of America's, include all loans it holds in its portfolio. For the other loans it services, it will follow guidelines from investors and from the states where the properties are located.

With the number of bank repossessions amounting to around 100,000 a month recently, the temporary reprieve could affect tens of thousands of borrowers in default. To top of page

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