First Washington Mortgage Corp., a Virginia-based lender, agreed this week to pay at least $80 to each of as many as 7,000 customers who say they paid for lender's inspections they never received.

The lender, which agreed to settle with the customers shortly before they filed a lawsuit, allegedly charged customers a $95 lender's inspection fee for a service it never performed. Most of the customers live in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Arlington residents Judith E. Schaeffer and Eileen C. Ryan initiated the class action complaint against First Washington last year. Specifically, the company was charged with violating several federal laws, including the Federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and the Truth in Lending Act.

The suit accused First Washington of charging a fee for a real estate service it did not perform, requiring Schaeffer and Ryan to pay a finance charge that was $95 too high, and participating in a scheme to defraud consumers.

The settlement, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court, would pay a minimum of $480,000 to the group, which includes customers who paid the fee between Feb. 9, 1984, and now. In addition, First Washington would pay $7,000 to Schaeffer and $3,000 to Ryan to cover their legal fees.

"It's not simply a question of charging fees for services," said Jane L. Dolkart, an attorney representing Schaeffer and Ryan. "A fee was charged for a service that was not performed. There was complete misrepresentation of what this $95 was going to be used for."

Gordon Forester, an attorney representing First Washington, said the lender denies any wrongdoing, but said, "To defend a case like this is expensive and time-consuming. It could cause a substantial disruption to the {law} firm and the company {First Washington}."

Forester said First Washington is searching its files to determine how many customers will be included in the case, but he said that it probably is between 6,000 and 7,000.

Once the exact number is determined, each customer will be contacted and a hearing will be set to determine if the terms of the settlement are acceptable to the court and to each of the parties involved in the suit."

The hearing probably will take place sometime in the fall, he said.

First Washington is jointly owned by Washington Federal Savings Bank and Columbia First Savings and Loan Association.

Schaeffer, an attorney, and Ryan, an accountant, went to First Washington's Annandale office in February 1986 to meet with a loan officer and apply for a loan to refinance the mortgage on their shared home, according to the suit.

As part of the application procedure, they signed a "Good Faith Estimate of Settlement Costs" form, which promised the lender's inspection. Schaeffer and Ryan settled on the house on April 7, 1986, and were required to pay the $95 fee.

On Aug. 1, Ryan wrote to First Washington asking for a copy of the inspection, but she never received a response, the suit said. She called the lender Sept. 3 and was told by her loan officer that the inspection had never occurred. She was also told that First Washington had sold Schaeffer's and Ryan's mortgage shortly after the closing in April.

The suit also charged that First Washington allows its loan officers to perform a "windshield inspection," in which a loan officer "drives by" the house, for customers who question the inspection fee.

Dolkart said Schaeffer and Ryan contacted First Washington last December to inform them that they intended to file a class action suit. They began negotiating a settlement in January and agreed to the terms earlier this week.

"It's a classic situation of the consumer who has no power," Dolkart said. "He has to pay it {the fee} or {he} doesn't get the loan."