Organization Helps Homeowners Meet Challenges

The Journal Friday Home Report
May 19, 1995

Jerry Deneil had a home literally made out of cardboard, a mortgage loan that wasn't properly serviced by his lender and a homeowner's policy that wouldn't have paid for full replacement when the next hurricane struck his southern Florida home. For the novice or average homeowner, this might be explained away, but as a retired mortgage banker, insurance agent, and someone who loves to work with his hands, he can only wonder about the countless homeowners that are being taken advantage of today by the industries designed to serve them.

Deneil contact the American Homeowners Association (AHA)®, an organization which seeks to be for homeowners what AAA is for automobile owners - providing vital services that save its members time and money on the recurring costs and problems of owning a home.

AHA is a national, membership-based consumer organization dedicated to helping America's homeowners and would-be homeowners through more than 35 products and services designed to reduce their costs of homeownership and improve their quality of life. AHA also aims to help groups such as new buyers, Baby Boomers, and aging homeowners with aging homes, to avoid common pitfalls in buying, maintaining and improving their homes. By enhancing their purchasing power, helping them make more informed decisions, and representing their key interests in both the public and private sectors, the organization's leaders believe it can significantly enhance the long-term financial security of America's homeowners.

The impetus for creating the largest independent group serving the needs of homeowners began while AHA's founder Richard J. Roll built one of America's leading mortgage auditing firms, Mortgage Monitor, as reported on by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Money, Worth Business Week, Glamour, Kiplingers, CNN, CNBC and the Wall Street Journal Report. Thousands of homeowners -- in all 50 states -- turned to Mortgage Monitor to help them reduce mortgage and property tax costs, negotiate more advantageous financial arrangements and recover millions in miscalculated fees and payments. Deneil is currently having a Mortgage Monitor audit done on his mortgage because he doesn't have the time to do it himself and also wanted assistance in combating the financial roadblocks his lender has installed. "They wanted to charge me $25 for each copy of a document," says Deneil. "When I was in the business, we didn't charge our customers to check our mistakes."

Congressional testimony by AHA's President Richard Roll before the House Banking Committee cited excessive padding on mortgage escrow (impound) accounts and urged HUD to force lenders to change their procedures. As a result, new HUD Rules governing mortgage lenders and servicers, which become effective May 24, 1995, will entitle most homeowners with mortgage escrow accounts to a refund of typically $250 or more as lenders are forced to return nearly $5 billion in escrow overcharges. AHA has published an Escrow Refund Guide ($4.50 to cover postage and handling) which tells homeowners in simple language exactly what the new HUD Rules mean for their specific mortgage and how to calculate and collect the refund due them.

AHA estimates that its membership card and $49 annual fee can save the typical member over $1,000 per year. Members receive free or reduced priced services from a nationwide network of more than 100,000 pre-screened Realtors, contractors, lawyers, and retailers. They can also utilize AHA's A.R.M. Watch, Automatic Mortgage Savings Plan, Property Tax Reduction Kit, and other home-related services. AHA has already signed up several billion-dollar companies as allies and sponsors in the fight to give homeowners better value.

To help consumers sort through the maze of confusing choices and offers, AHA issues the AHA Approved Product Seal. It indicated providers, products and services which are pre-screened for value and effectiveness, fully guaranteed and offer special terms to AHA members.

AHA's Washington, D.C. based consumer education and research center is currently creating the largest central source for useful homeowner related information, accessible to both the public and press through publications, a fax-on-demand system, and a forthcoming computerized online service.

For free information on joining the American Homeowners Association (AHA)®, or to order the new Escrow Refund Guide ($4.50 to cover postage and handling), homeowners may call 800-470-2242 or write AHA's Membership Services Center: 2121 Precinct Line Road 3000, Hurst, TX 76054. AHA's executive offices are in Stamford, CT and metropolitan Washington, D.C.


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