Page last updated at 21:07 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

US Treasury in foreclosure fines

A house in the US undergoing foreclosure
The mortgage assistance programme is costing the US government $75bn

The US Treasury Department is cracking down on mortgage companies failing to help borrowers at risk of foreclosure.

The Treasury hopes the move will increase participation in its mortgage assistance program, which aims to lower mortgage payments.

Mortgage providers must now submit details on how they would decide which loans would be permanently modified.

Banks that fall short of their agreement could face fines or sanctions.

Under the $75bn (£45.6bn) programme, companies that agree to reduce payments receive several thousand dollars in incentives when the loan is permanently lowered.

However, some mortgage companies say they have had trouble getting borrowers to return their documents so they can complete the changes.

Under the scheme, troubled homeowners could have their mortgage interest rate reduced to as low as 2% for five years.

The Treasury will monitor the largest mortgage companies through daily progress reports.

In December, it plans to publish a list of the mortgage companies that are lagging, in an effort to shame them into making more effort.

At the start of September only 1,700 homeowners had completed the programme, which takes five months to complete.

By the end of October, 650,000 borrowers, or 20% of those eligible, had signed up.

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