Mortgage Giant Fannie Mae Issues New Penalties

Mortgage giant Fannie Mae issued new penalties Wednesday to try and prevent homeowners from choosing foreclosure and walking away from their homes.

A policy announced Wednesday targets troubled borrowers who do not try in good faith to work out a deal but have the capacity to pay.

It's a warning shot to homeowners in trouble: Walk away from your home without trying every last option and you won't get another mortgage for at least seven years.

Furthermore, Fannie Mae said that in states where it can, it will sue homeowners to recoup what's not been paid.

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"We're taking these steps to highlight the importance of working with your servicer," read a statement from Fannie Mae.

Pressure on the Banks

The homeowner is left feeling the pressure.

But on Capitol Hill today, the pressure was on the banks. Lawmakers asked what the banks had done for the homeowner.

"Why in the world aren't you giving loan modifications to more eligible borrowers," Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, asked in a hearing.

In announcing the new policy, Fannie Mae said homeowners who make a good faith effort to resolve their situation with their mortgage companies, and those who have extenuating circumstances, will be eligible for new loans in a shorter time period. The company did not detail how long the wait might be.

No Buyers, Few Options

With Fannie Mae threatening homeowners with new penalties, even homeowners who have done everything right are worried -- homeowners like the Hirschis, who ABC News first met last year in Phoenix.

Betty and Heath Hirschi put down a sizeable down payment in a red hot neighborhood, a neighborhood so hot that potential buyers had to put their name in a lottery.

They bought their home for about $300,000.

Suddenly, the market crashed and the value of their dream home plummeted.

The timing couldn't have been worse. Heath Hirschi needed to move the family for the job.

With no buyers, the Hirschis couldn't sell the home. They pondered whether to walk away from what they thought would be their dream home. They even tried to modify their mortgage so that they could rent the house.

'Crashing Down Around You'

None of it worked. So word that Fannie Mae is cracking down on homeowners like them doesn't sit well.

They say people might not understand "until you've actually lived it and done everything you thought was right to get to that point," Betty Hirschi said, "and then have it all come crashing down around you."

There may be little comfort for homeowners who watched the government bail out the mortgage giant now refusing to cooperate with them. The government seized control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in September 2008, a rescue that has cost taxpayers $145 billion so far.

The two companies show no signs of becoming self-sufficient.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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