“Borrowers selected for the program must be at least two months past due on their mortgage and face considerable risk of foreclosure. Bank of America is reaching out to borrowers who have exhausted other alternatives to foreclosure or who haven’t responded to earlier solicitations. Homeowners with second mortgages or other liens won’t be selected.”
Bank of America Program Allows Owners to Stay in Homes and Rent From the Bank
Bank of America Corp. BAC -2.24% is launching a pilot program that will allow homeowners at risk of foreclosure to hand over deeds to their houses and sign leases that will let them rent the houses back from the bank at a market rate.
While the initial scope of the “Mortgage to Lease” program is small—the bank began sending letters Thursday offering leases to 1,000 homeowners in Arizona, Nevada and New York—it represents a big change in the way banks deal with borrowers who can’t afford their mortgages.
Until now, banks have focused the bulk of their borrower outreach on modifying mortgages, usually by reducing the monthly payments. When that doesn’t work, most foreclosure alternatives require homeowners to leave their house, typically through a short sale, in which the bank approves the sale for less than the amount owed. Banks often insert clauses forbidding the new owner from renting the property back to the former owner.
The new approach is unlikely to be expanded unless banks conclude that avoiding eviction reduces costs associated with taking back, maintaining and reselling properties. If a significant number of borrowers are willing and able to rent the homes, Bank of America could ultimately sell the properties to investors that agree to keep them as rentals.
Already, in a growing number of housing markets, investors are buying foreclosures and converting them into rentals, often filling them with families that have gone through foreclosure.