ALBANY, N.Y. - New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said this week that his office has negotiated an agreement with six mortgage insurers to refund $4 million of overcharges to thousands of homeowners.

Mr. Spitzer's office estimated Tuesday that about 10,000 New York State homeowners are eligible for a refund and that they will get an average of $400. The companies paying the refunds are Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp. of Milwaukee; PMI Mortgage Insurance of San Francisco; General Electric Mortgage Insurance Co. of Raleigh, N.C.; Republic Mortgage Insurance Co. of Winston-Salem, N.C.; United Guaranty Residential Insurance of Greensboro, N.C.; and Radian Guaranty Inc. of Philadelphia.

New York law prohibits insurance companies from charging borrowers for mortgage insurance after they achieve 25% equity in their homes. But Mr. Spitzer's office found after a yearlong investigation that the six were continuing to collect premiums after their customers had topped the 25% threshold. Officials at the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, a trade group that represents the insurers, said the companies collect premiums from insured lenders, not borrowers, and generally do not know when borrowers cross the equity threshold.

"The private mortgage insurers voluntarily reached this agreement to assure that consumers will receive a prompt refund of premiums," said Suzanne Hutchinson, executive vice president of MICA.

"Private mortgage insurance has helped millions of Americans buy homes sooner, for less money down, and we don't want consumers to pay premiums any longer than necessary."

Consumers who were overcharged between November 1, 1997 and November 1, 2000 are eligible for the refunds.

Over the next few months, the mortgage insurance companies and the banks holding loans will go through their records to determine which homeowners have been overcharged, the office said. Homeowners should receive their refund by July.

In the agreement, the six companies denied any violation of law and have paid a combined sum of $125,000 to the Attorney General's Office to cover the costs of the investigation.

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