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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- New rules approved by North Carolina banking regulators could help fight home foreclosures.

The rules taking effect Tuesday say that companies that service mortgages must stop foreclosure activity once a homeowner asks for a loan modification.

Lenders now go ahead with the foreclosure process at the same time they're negotiating with homeowners over how much they can pay on a mortgage. Because of backlogs from so many homeowners seeking help, processing delays have led to some needlessly losing their homes.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the rules do not apply to banks or savings and loans and the North Carolina Banking Commission doesn't regulate federally chartered banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

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