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Widow pays mortgage insurance

I am a 65-year-old widow not familiar with real estate or banking regulations. In 1983, I bought a small home. There was an assumable mortgage of $13,000. The principal now is down to $7,800.

I had someone check my latest payment statement and he discovered that I have been charged private mortgage insurance on this small amount of money since I bought the house.

The bank never notified me that I need not pay this premium. I assumed it was part of homeowner's insurance.

Do I have any right to the money they deducted from my payments for 10 years?

A.C.

Response: According to David W. Myers, who writes a syndicated Home Buyer's Guide, private mortgage insurance usually is required by lenders when the down payment on a home is less than 20 percent of the purchase price. PMI means that if you can't make your house payments, the insurance company will reimburse the bank for at least part of the loan.

These premiums often can be eliminated once the homeowner has acquired an equity stake of at least 20 percent in the property. Some lenders will require a current appraisal to determine the property's value before canceling PMI. Call your lending institution to find out its policy on this subject.

If your request to drop PMI is refused, ask if your home loan has been sold to the Federal National Mortgage Association or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Co. Both these agencies require that PMI be dropped if certain conditions are met.

PMI premiums on loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration usually cannot be dropped because these loans wind up in a pool backed by the federal government. If homeowners were allowed to drop their PMI insurance premiums they would no longer have government backing and investors would not buy them. But then, without PMI, the homeowner probably would not have qualified for the home loan in the first place.

Unless you can prove that your bank charged you PMI premiums in error, we cannot imagine that you will be able to recoup any of your past premiums.

Man wants awning deposit back

I gave Artbilt Awning a $300 deposit to install a carport awning for me in April. The salesman said there would be a six-week wait for materials.

The day after making the deposit I found that it would not be feasible for me to have this work done at the present time so I called Artbilt and explained the situation to the office manager. She said my deposit would be returned right away.

I have called six or eight times since then and every time they give me a different excuse.

Robert McFadden

Response: Artbilt's president, Ronald Robison, says your deposit was returned by mail the day after you called.

About a week later you called to say you had not received it. Robison said he learned that the check had been sent to the wrong address. It went to your house number on the south side of the city instead of the north side. He spoke to someone at that address who promised to forward your check.

Since the check has not surfaced, Robison says he has stopped payment on it and issued you a new one.

Enzyme is the Houdini of candy

How do candy makers get that pink syrup inside chocolate-covered cherry candies?

A.D.

Response: Most people would assume the secret is in molding the chocolate, inserting the cherries and syrup and then attaching a molded chocolate lid (the bottom) onto the candy.

Not so, says William Poundstone in his book Biggest Secrets. The real secret involves an enzyme.

The cherries are coated with a paste made of sugar and the enzyme invertase. When this paste has hardened around the cherry the whole thing is dipped in chocolate.

Over the next several weeks the enzyme turns the hardened paste into syrup.

Invertase is a natural enzyme. The chocolate companies get it from yeast. It breaks down ordinary sugar into glucose and fructose, which dissolve in the moisture content of the sugar forming a syrup around the cherry.

Reactions

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Mrs. L. Dienert

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, to leave a recorded request for Action.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or on our voice mail system; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Upon request, names will not be published.

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