One by one, the state of Massachusetts is targeting firms that claim they can "rescue" distressed homeowners from impending foreclosure. The Massachusetts Attorney Generals office has obtained a preliminary injunction against defendants H.O.P.E. Alliance, Inc., (H.O.P.E. Alliance), Law & Associates, LLC and Thomas E. Law, II.
The preliminary injunction prohibits the defendants from publishing advertisements concerning foreclosure-related services, contacting Massachusetts consumers regarding foreclosures or mortgages, and taking and/or soliciting advance fees from consumers. The preliminary injunction follows a temporary restraining order granted against the defendants in early June.
In a complaint centers on the all-too-common practice of soliciting unlawful advance fees for foreclosure-related services, and unnecessarily delayed negotiations regarding loan modifications. The two together, says Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, usually pushes homeowners further into debt.
The complaint also alleges that H.O.P.E. Alliance, with the help of co-defendants Law & Associates, LLC, and Thomas E. Law, II, solicited homeowners facing foreclosure by sending letters that directed them to a toll-free number and to the website www.helpnowalliance.org.
The website states that it is an alliance of nonprofit organizations and housing counselors that can assist homeowners in obtaining a loan modification or stopping foreclosure. The website also states that it is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.
"H.O.P.E. Alliance is not registered with the IRS or the Attorney General's Office as a non-profit," Coakley said. The Attorney General's complaint also asserts that in its letter to homeowners, H.O.P.E. Alliance deceptively used a similar name to the government-sponsored non-profit organization, HOPE NOW Alliance.
During telephone calls with consumers, defendants apparently attempted to skirt the law by asking for a "donation" instead of a fee, but Coakley says the request is still an unlawful fee. Defendants also allegedly promised to obtain loan modifications for consumers, and then after months of delay either failed to provide any services or only provided inadequate assistance to homeowners.