CALABASAS, Calif. - Countrywide Home Loans Inc. announced Thursday that the Department of Veterans Affairs has put it in charge of servicing foreclosed properties bought with VA loans.

In competitive bidding the company was awarded contracts for servicing the department's National Mortgage Portfolio and subservicing its Vendee Mortgage Trusts.

Under the first contract, Countrywide is to help the department when it forecloses on properties that it has guaranteed.

When that occurs, the property is put in the national portfolio and sold to veterans or nonveterans. Countrywide is to be property manager until a home is sold - paying taxes and maintenance costs on the department's behalf and performing all other servicing functions.

Performing loans from the national portfolio are later pooled and sold into the Vendee Mortgage Trusts three times a year. Under the second contract, Countrywide will subservice the loans in the trusts.

At any given time Countrywide could be servicing or subservicing as many as 35,000 loans under these contracts. The trusts now comprise more than 68,000 loans, worth nearly $5 billion.

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