A court hearing this week could force housing officials to clarify a longstanding gray area in the reverse mortgage business: When the borrower dies, can the lender foreclose on a surviving spouse not named in the loan?

Four such spouses will ask a U.S. District Court to halt the foreclosures on their homes at the hearing in Washington on Thursday. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan say the department needs to clarify contradictory language about the rights of non-borrowing spouses in its rules for the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program.

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