Maryland regulators said Tuesday that a Virginia law firm must pay a $489,000 penalty for charging homeowners upfront fees to help them seek loan modifications — in violation of state law — and blanketing Maryland with advertisements despite having no state license.
The Law Offices of Perry and Associates, attorney Michael A. Perry and Anthony Dolphus were also ordered to stop soliciting loan-modification business in Maryland, the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said. The firm bought radio ads and "littered sidewalks and intersections across Maryland counties with more than 650 street signs advertising low interest rate loan modifications," the agency said.
A call to the Perry law firm was not returned Tuesday.
The state does not allow companies to charge upfront fees to help borrowers avoid foreclosure, a rule meant to attack the problem of firms promising help but never delivering. And state officials have urged struggling homeowners to get free help by contacting a nonprofit housing counseling agency.
The Perry law firm requested a restraining order against the state in August to try to stave off the cease-and-desist order. But a Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings judge ruled last week that the firm did not have the necessary license and did indeed collect upfront fees.