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News RELEASE: Maui Homeowners Urged to Exercise Caution, Report Unsolicited Offers to Buy Their Properties

HONOLULU – Homeowners impacted by the Maui wildfires are facing uncertain financial circumstances relating to their properties. That financial pressure may prompt predatory buyers to capitalize upon the fear of foreclosure or the cost of rebuilding to induce owners to sell their properties at below-market prices. Homeowners who receive unsolicited communications about their properties should act with a heightened sense of doubt and skepticism.

Those who are concerned or offended by unsolicited communications should alert the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ (DCCA) Office of Consumer Protection and the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO). The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) is entrusted with protecting the consumer public and may investigate matters such as home equity theft.

“The Office of Consumer Protection has been vigilant about protecting vulnerable homeowners. The public is encouraged to immediately contact us with any concerns and questions,” said Mana Moriarty, Executive Director of the Office of Consumer Protection. “Any reported instances of misconduct will be investigated, and if confirmed, wrongdoers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Illegal conduct and those seeking to take advantage of those most vulnerable will not be tolerated.”

Prospective buyers may or may not be licensed professionals and may withhold or misrepresent vital information and details during a transaction. Realtors are prohibited from making misrepresentations, false promises, and engaging in fraudulent or dishonest dealings. RICO works with the Real Estate Commission to regulate real estate licensees.

“We are disheartened to hear that survivors of this catastrophe are being approached by unscrupulous persons whose only goal is to prey upon them. If someone approaches you with a deal or offer, and you did not reach out to them first, please hang up the phone or walk away,” says Esther Brown, Complaints and Enforcement Officer for the Regulated Industries Complaints Office. “Chances are high that unsolicited deals are not a legitimate operation or part of the federal, state, county and private partnership working to assist those affected.”

While property owners have the right to sell their properties, unsolicited offers from buyers may result in owners receiving less than they otherwise would. The appeal of an all-cash offer, a quick closing, a hassle-free transaction, a pre-closing cash advance, the payment of liens, avoiding commissions, avoiding attorneys’ fees, and avoiding foreclosure, are all things owners may be told to induce them to sign a contract under a time deadline that does not allow for the consumer to make a sound decision or consult with others.

Members of the public receiving unsolicited offers should report the name, place of business, telephone number, and address of any person to DCCA’s Consumer Resource Center at 808-587-4272.

Financial assistance and homeowner relief programs are available for individuals and homeowners experiencing hardship resulting from the Maui.

  • Insurance: If you have sustained a loss, contact your agent or insurance company as soon as possible. File a claim with your agent or directly with your insurance company by visiting its website or calling its local or toll-free number. For more information on how to file a homeowners insurance claim, visit http://cca.hawaii.gov/ins/resources or contact the Hawaiʻi Insurance Division at 808-586-2790 or [email protected].
  • FDIC: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has announced a series of steps intended to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and facilitate recovery in areas of Hawaiʻi affected by wildfires. If you are a homeowner and are worried about or missing a mortgage payment, or if you are already behind on your mortgage payments, you should contact your lender or servicer directly for mortgage deferral and financial assistance programs.
  • FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has received more than 3,000 valid registrations for federal assistance and continues to urge Maui residents affected by the wildfires to apply for disaster assistance. FEMA provides financial assistance and direct services to eligible individuals and households. Survivors may also be eligible to stay in an approved hotel for a limited amount of time if they are unable to return to their damaged, primary residence. People with limited phone and internet access can register with FEMA staff in person at shelters. Others can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 1-800-621- 3362.
  • Federal Lenders: Borrowers with a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae mortgage loan will receive an automatic 90-day forbearance, meaning that no payment will be due for at least 90 days. This forbearance is automatic – no contact with mortgage servicers is necessary.

A 90-day forbearance is also available for Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Veterans Affairs (VA) borrowers; however, homeowners are required to contact their mortgage loan servicer to request the forbearance.

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Media Contact:

William Nhieu

Communications Officer

Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs

[email protected]

Office: (808) 586-7582