Iowa consumer advocates are urging state lawmakers to crack down on predatory lending. Last week they warned lawmakers about the high cost of “instant-refund” tax-return loans, and short-term, high-interest payday loans. They’re also targeting high-risk home-mortage loans. Tyler Uetz is an organizer with the Iowa Coalition Against Abusive Lending. Predatory mortgage lending alone, he says, “strips over 49-million dollars in wealth out of our communities,” and he charges most companies making the loans are based out of California, Texas and Florida. “Their employees aren’t here, their executives aren’t here, and they’re harming families, businesses, and the state of Iowa and its tax base.” Finance companies argue they’re providing a service to Iowans who can’t get a loan from a traditional bank because of bad credit. But Uetz says most Iowans aren’t out shopping for these loans — lenders seek them out. Most of the families already own their homes, he says, but under the pressure of a costly illness or credit-card debt, they’re being tempted to consolidate their debt through mail offers aimed at single mothers and working families. He’s seeing a lot of inflated appraisals that falsify the value of a home. They think hey have equity and can refinance at a lower rate, but when they go to their local bank and learn though they’ve borrowed 90-thousand dollars against a 100-thousand dollar house, it was only worth eighty…and they’re trapped. Uetz says payday loans cost Iowans $34 million dollars a year in lost wages. He says non-bank lenders are preying on people with poor credit, charging excessive fees and outrageous closing costs. Uetz says the group wants to require the lenders to tell everyone just what the loan’s costing them, a total most folks don’t know. They also want to limit the number of loans that can be made, explaining that many families are taking out a dozen “payday loans” a year and it’s becoming a cycle instead of a one-time stopgap measure. “As any hunter will tell you,” he says, “The key to a trap is that it doesn’t look like a trap.” Coalition organizer Tyler Uetz testified before the senate commerce committee.
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