According to a piece last week in the Los Angeles Times, more and more underwater mortgage holders are staying in their foreclosed homes – and lenders are letting them.

Throughout the country, people continue to default on their home loans — but lenders have backed off on forced evictions, allowing many to remain in their homes, essentially rent-free.

Several factors are driving the trend, industry experts say, including government pressure on banks to modify loans and keep people in their homes.

And with a glut of inventory in places like Southern California’s Inland Empire, Nevada and Arizona, lenders are loath to depress housing prices further by dumping more properties into a weak market.

Finally, allowing borrowers to stay in their homes helps protect the bank’s investment as it negotiates with the homeowners, said Gary Kirshner, a spokesman for Chase bank, a major lender.

“If the person’s in the property, there’s less chance for vandalism, and they’re probably maintaining the house,” he said.

Economists say the situation won’t last forever, but in the meantime the “amnesty” may allow at least some homeowners to regain their financial footing and avoid eviction.

ForeclosureRadar reports that it now takes an average of 229 days – up from 146 days in 2008 – for banks to foreclose on a home after sending a notice of default.

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