WASHINGTON (AP) — A new report says homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure must wait too long for their loan modification applications to be reviewed by some of the nation's top mortgage servicers. Such delays can plunge borrowers deeper in debt.

Joseph A. Smith, the independent monitor of last year's national mortgage settlement, said Wednesday that while the banks are doing a better job complying with new mortgage servicing rules, more needs to be done.

The settlement between 49 states, federal government agencies and lenders JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial set new rules for how banks handle troubled home loans.

The settlement helped close a difficult chapter of the financial crisis when home values sank and millions edged toward foreclosure. Many firms had processed foreclosures without verifying documents.

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