Consumer finance agency sets mortgage protections

The government's new consumer lending watchdog is proposing new rules aimed at protecting homeowners from unexpected costs and shoddy service by companies that collect their monthly mortgage payments.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Friday that mortgage servicing companies should be required to provide clear monthly billing statements, warn borrowers before interest rate hikes and help them avoid foreclosure. It wants the companies to credit people's payments promptly, correct errors and keep better records.

The proposal was required under the broad financial overhaul law passed by Congress in 2010. That law also created the CFPB, which writes and enforces rules governing lenders, loan servicers, credit reporting agencies and other consumer finance companies.

The proposal is open for public comment until Oct. 9. The agency will finalize it in January 2013.