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House OKs Mortgage Scam Bill

November 13, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A bill to protect older Americans from being charged excessive and unnecessary fees on so-called reverse mortgages won House approval Thursday.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rick Lazio, R-N.Y., was prompted by reports of fees up to 10 percent of the loan amount being charged for ``estate planning services″ to the elderly as they apply for reverse mortgages.

Reverse mortgages allow older people to borrow against equity in their homes, receiving monthly or lump-sum payments for medical expenses, home repairs and other living expenses. The bill prevents promoters from charging for information about the reverse mortgage program, which is available at no cost from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

``Enactment of this important legislation will prevent these unscrupulous activities and will ensure the quality of life (that) seniors across American deserve,″ Lazio said in a statement.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said reverse mortgage scams can rob the elderly of up to $5,000 on a $50,000 reverse mortgage. He said he hopes the Senate will pass the legislation as well. The Senate passed a similar measure this week but will have to work out differences between the two bills.

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