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Maryland attorney general settles with Safeguard Properties

Ohio-based Safeguard Properties, which has faced claims across the country that it locked people out of their homes or took their belongings before the foreclosure process was complete, settled a complaint from the Maryland attorney general's office Friday.

Under the settlement, Safeguard, the nation's largest mortgage field services company, agreed to a host of reforms to its practices and to pay $167,000 in restitution to Marylanders allegedly harmed.

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Safeguard has faced lawsuits in other states from homeowners and in June settled a lawsuit brought by the Illinois attorney general for $1 million.

Safeguard is responsible for inspecting, maintaining and repairing homes in default or foreclosure. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh alleged that the company failed to supervise and train its vendors who work in Maryland.

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Safeguard "respectfully disagreed" with the allegations, spokeswoman Megan Greenwalt said in a statement, adding that the agreement did not include findings of liability or wrongdoing by Safeguard or its contractors.

"The assurance agreement memorializes those procedures that were materially already in place at Safeguard prior to the inquiry and will allow us to continue to deploy industry best practices within the State of Maryland," Greenwalt said.

The company agreed to changes including new background checks for employees, not removing nonhazardous personal property prior to foreclosure, and clearly posting notice when its agents have entered a property.

The Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general's office will contact consumers who are eligible for restitution, and payments will be distributed through a claims process. For more information, residents can contact the division at 410-576-6569.

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