Settlement means thousands of Floridians eligible for financial help with mortgages



CENTRAL FLORIDA - Right now thousands of Floridians who lost their homes to foreclosure are missing out on cash that is theirs thanks to a national mortgage settlement.

Millions of dollars are also available for struggling homeowners at risk of losing their homes, and even those whose loans are current.

Just about everyone in Florida knows someone affected by the mortgage crisis.

Now as part of a historic $25 billion settlement between the nation's five largest lenders and 49 states, the banks will have to pay up to three categories of homeowners: those who need loan modifications now, those who are current on house payments, but owe much more than their houses are worth and those who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2008 and 2011.

Real estate attorney Justin Clark has been working with homeowners since the crisis began.

"One, it's for people wrongfully foreclosed upon. Two, it's for people still in their house to make the banks work with you," said Clark.

Clark said that for the first time he is seeing banks start to work with people.

"Lenders have turned so many people off that they're saying, 'I don't want to work with them anymore.' But you have to understand, because of this settlement now is the time to do it," said Clark.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said the average Florida homeowner who is underwater or struggling is getting a principal reduction of $73,000.

"It's going to save a lot of people's houses," said Clark.

People foreclosed on by the nation's five largest lenders between 2008 and 2011 are eligible for checks between $1,000 and $2,000 but you must apply immediately.

Bondi said fewer than half of those eligible have applied.