MARS—A Candy Bar or A Law?
When I think “MARS” I automatically think chocolate. My second thought is outer space. To Realtors® MARS now has a very important connotation. The Federal Trade Commission, a part of our government that seems to have no boss, issued a new Mortgage Assistance Relief Service Ruling effective Jan. 31, 2011. The reason it is so important is because there is a $16,000 per transaction fine if the ruling is violated.
The ruling applies to real estate agents who transact short sales, as well as other professionals in the distressed property industry. Civil penalties enforced by the FTC for non-compliance total $16,000 per occurrence. Since the beginning of the mortgage crisis, a growing trend of fraud has plagued millions of homeowners. The Federal Trade Commission placed this rule in effect to protect the consumer. The Rule defines “Mortgage Assistance Relief Service” (MARS) as a service, plan, or program that is represented, expressly or by implication, to help homeowners prevent or postpone foreclosure or help them get other kinks of relief, like loan modifications, forbearance agreements, short sales, deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure, or extensions of time to cure defaults or reinstate loans.”
Real estate agents are included in this ruling because they play such an intricate part in representing financially distressed property owners. The sole purpose of this ruling is to protect consumers from fraud. The moral character of Realtors® prohibits taking advantage of consumers in any way. It is the Realtors® primary responsibility to represent a real estate owner’s best financial interest with every action they take. The Realtors® Code of Ethics eliminates most defrauding activities but there’s always a few rotten apples in every barrel; right? The MARS ruling affects mostly so-called (scamming) lending institutions, government bodies, and legal institutions that claim they can salvage a consumer’s credit rating, and get them out of from under their financial obligations with little to no side effects.
I know from firsthand experience in representing financially distressed property owners that a Realtor® is in a better position to help financially distressed consumers than any professional I know of. Consumers and Realtors® should know what the ruling says and make sure everyone abides by it. Because of the length of rules and their specific nature, if you will subscribe to our FREE “News and Updates” you will be able to send me a request to receive information about MARS. I will then email you a complete explanation.
I personally haven’t altered my language or paperwork due to MARS – I have always recommended other mortgage assistance providers to my clients. However, when MARS was introducted, we were warned that whoever we recommend needs to be MARS compliant, otherwise there may be some liability for us. It’s unfortunate that these types of regulations need to be passed and that there are people out there taking advantage of the needy.