CHICAGO (AP) _ Household International Inc., a major lender to people with bad credit, has reached a proposed settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought over its mortgage lending practices.

The amount that Household will pay to borrowers has not yet been determined, pending federal court approval of the settlement. But a spokeswoman for the nationwide community activist group that filed the lawsuit estimated it to be more than $100 million.

The bulk of the deal announced Tuesday will involve a program that will provide relief, such as interest rate reductions, to Household borrowers who are delinquent on their payments and at risk of mortgage foreclosure, officials said.

``This will be extremely helpful for people who have experienced a loss of income or a disability,'' said Angela Staron, a spokeswoman for Washington-based ACORN. ``It removes the fear of losing their homes and having to uproot their families. Some of these people have been in their homes for more than 30 years.''

The lawsuit, filed last year in federal court in California, was aimed at the lending practices of Prospect Heights, Ill.-based Household's two U.S.-based businesses _ Household Finance Corporation and Beneficial Corporation. The companies were accused of charging high interest rates, fees and penalties.

The settlement also is expected to pay borrowers who did not participate in a nationwide settlement announced by state attorneys general last year, ACORN and Household said in a joint statement. Last year's $484 million settlement was reached between all 50 states and the District of Columbia with Household, which was accused of duping tens of thousands of poor home buyers with hidden and unnecessary costs.

This latest proposed settlement would also create a ``good payment'' rewards program for borrowers who make timely monthly mortgage payments.

``We expect the final agreement will be six months down the road,'' said Household spokesman Mark Friedlander, adding that a hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 12. ``The good thing about this proposal is that it allows both Household and ACORN to avoid a protracted court process and delivers benefits to borrowers more quickly.''

Household is a subsidiary or HSBC Holdings PLC of London, a banking and financial services company.

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On the Net:

Household: http://www.household.com

ACORN: http://acorn.org/index.php?id1600