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Some MARS Stipulations No Longer Enforced

By: Kristie Franks

The Federal Trade Commission will no longer enforce most provisions set forth in the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, according to a statement released Friday.

The MARS Rule required real estate agents to make several disclosures when assisting distressed homeowners in obtaining short sales from their lenders or servicers.

The rule also banned advance fee collection and prohibited false or misleading statements.

After the Rule was enacted by Congress in 2009, several real estate agents complained that the disclosures often confused homeowners or misled them.

“As more and more American homeowners seek short sales, it is especially important that the Rule not inadvertently discourage real estate professionals from helping consumers with these types of transactions,” the FTC stated.

The MARS Rule required real estate agents to state that they are not associated with the government, nor have their services been approved by the government or the homeowner’s lender; the lender may choose not to alter the homeowner’s loan; and if a company tells a homeowner to stop making mortgage payments, they must warn them that they could lose their home or damage their credit rating.

Real estate agents who are in good standing under state licensing requirements, in compliance with state real estate laws, and assisting homeowners in obtaining short sales are no longer required to provide the MARS disclosures.

These agents may also collect advance fees.

Deceptive practices and false statements will still be prohibited by the FTC.

The FTC’s stay only applies to short sales and does not affect agents providing assistance with other types of relief such as loan modifications.