It's just cruel to toss struggling homeowners out on the cold streets during the holidays. That's why Citigroup Inc. will suspend foreclosures and evictions for 30 days in a temporary break for about 4,000 borrowers during the holiday season.
The New York-based bank said today the suspension will run from Friday through Jan. 17. It applies only to borrowers whose loans are owned by Citi. Borrowers who make payments to Citi but whose loans are owned by other investors are out of luck.
"We want our borrowers to have a much less stressful time, to spend their time with their families during the holidays as opposed to worrying about their homes," Sanjiv Das, head of the company's mortgage division, said in an interview.
The suspension means Citi will halt foreclosure sales and stop evicting homeowners from properties it has already seized. The company projects it will help 2,000 homeowners with scheduled foreclosure sales and another 2,000 that were due to receive foreclosure notices.
Das also said the company is working on "some long-term fundamental alternatives" to foreclosure, but declined to be specific. "We know that moratoriums are not permanent solutions," he said.
Most major lenders suspended foreclosures last winter while the Obama administration developed its $75 billion loan modification program. Foreclosures picked up again after those suspensions lifted. In recent months, they have fallen as banks evaluate whether borrowers qualify for the government program.
Citi has enrolled about 100,000 borrowers in the Obama program, but had made only about 270 of those modifications permanent as of the end of last month, according to a Treasury Department report. But Das said the low number resulted from a "reporting error" and said it will rise dramatically by year-end.
"I have put a lot of pressure on my team to make sure that there is almost nothing left in the pipeline," he said.