Largest Homebuilder Settles Illegal Pre Qualification Allegations

Allison Tussey —  August 17, 2010 — Leave a comment

Pulte Home Corporation and Pulte Mortgage, LLC (collectively “Pulte“), settled a lawsuit for $1,181,400, resolving the State of Arizona’s investigation into allegations that Pulte‘s pre-qualification practices, earnest money deposit policies and Spanish-language marketing efforts violated Arizona’s consumer protection law.
The settlement, in which no admission of fault or finding of liability is made, will be submitted to the Maricopa County Superior Court for final approval.

The Consent Judgment stipulates that Pulte will:
â”” Ensure that Pulte Home‘s Arizona sales representatives do not represent or imply that they are able to “pre-qualify” Arizona consumers for home loans.
â”” Disclose orally and in writing that communications between a prospective buyer and Pulte sales staff regarding how expensive a home the consumer can afford to buy do not constitute an offer of financing.
â”” In one document, clearly disclose: (1) Pulte offers buyers incentives, such as free upgrades or money toward closing costs, in exchange for the buyers’ use of Pulte Mortgage or other affiliated businesses, and consumers who do decide to use a lender other than Pulte Mortgage will not receive such incentives or discounts. (2) There are other providers of such services, and fees, charges, loan terms and interest rates may vary among providers.
â”” Ensure that the representations made in its English-language and Spanish-language marketing materials are equivalent.
â”” Refund $81,400 to 10 Arizona consumers who the Attorney General alleged wrongly forfeited their earnest money deposits after canceling their purchase agreements.
â”” Pay $200,000 into an escrow account which will fund any new, legitimate claims for earnest money deposit refunds that are filed with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office within 12 months of the settlement.
â”” Pay $500,000 to the Consumer Fraud Revolving Fund to fund the Attorney General’s consumer protection, education and outreach programs.
â”” Pay $100,000 to fund the publication and dissemination of Spanish-language educational materials.
â”” Pay $300,000 as reimbursement of the Attorney General’s costs and investigative expenses.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard announced the $1,181,400 settlement.

“Certainly homeowners need to educate themselves about all of their options when buying a home,” Goddard said. “But homebuilders and lenders have a legal obligation to provide their customers with complete and accurate information. I commend Pulte’s commitment to amend its practices and bring more transparency into buying and financing a Pulte home.”

“Pulte respects the concerns of the Arizona Attorney General and commends the Office for its ongoing efforts to protect consumers throughout the home-buying process,” said John Chadwick, Southwest Area President of Pulte Group, Inc. “We hold ourselves to the highest standards in customer services and have always operated in good faith with our customers and the State. We look forward to maintaining our role as an important contributor to Arizona’s job and housing market, as we have for the past 50 years.”

Consumers who feel they have wrongly forfeited earnest money deposits to Pulte should file a refund request with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Anyone with questions can call 602-542-5763.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Nancy Bonnell.

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Allison Tussey

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