The Federal Housing Administration will crack down on appraisers of homes purchased with FHA-backed loans who don't report major structural problems, the agency said, a move aimed at better protecting home buyers. Appraisers who knowingly conceal home defects will be fined between $5,000 and $10,000 for each false claim, the FHA said. There are about 41,000 licensed appraisers in the U.S. Lenders hire these state-certified professionals. Until now, a lender didn't have to inform a borrower if an appraiser found defects with the house he or she reviewed, the FHA said. Lenders will also be subject to penalties for failure to inform buyers of defects. The new home-buyer protection program will "improve the appraisal process to make it more accurate," providing "more information about possible problems with homes up for sale," Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference. The FHA insures about 800,000 mortgages a year for low- and moderate-income home buyers. Millions of Americans have been able to buy their first home because FHA insured the mortgage they obtained from a bank or a thrift. FHA guarantees mortgages against default to encourage lenders to make more loans. The FHA, which is part of HUD, said its improvements could save home buyers millions of dollars each year and increase overall consumer confidence. FHA will also revive the federal False Claims Act, which dates back to the Civil War and makes it a federal and criminal violation for an appraiser to make false statements, said Gary Eisenman, deputy general counsel for HUD's housing division.
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