I am a lawyer. I think Homeowners facing Foreclosure should contact an attorney. However, I tried putting myself in the shoes of someone trying to seek out information to defend a foreclosure complaint. I first looked at the summons that is attached to the complaint in Ohio. It directs you to Save The Dream. It gives you a telephone number; I called the number. I asked straight up how do I find an attorney to help me. The person on the other end of the telephone did not know. They did not provide that type of assistance, but he was able to set up an appointment at an office near me. He gave me the address, but I declined the assistance.
I then located the address on the internet and the agency that was located at the address was a Credit Counseling Center. I did not speak with anyone at the Center, but I have discussed a number of foreclosure cases with people who have gone to credit counseling. The Credit Counseling Agency does not provide the names of attorneys who could provide assistance. They provide credit counseling that will guide the individuals through the various governmental programs that will assist the Homeowner Facing Foreclosure. These credit counselors assist the Homeowners while the Homeowners work with the Lender/Plaintiff. (While the Homeowners need a lifeline, all they are given is an opportunity to take swimming lessons.).
In Northeastern Ohio there are a number of billboards encouraging people to contact an agency for assistance. The telephone numbers on most of the billboards, lead the person to Neighborworks, the National Federation of Credit Counseling, ESOP (Encouraging and Strengthening Ohio's People). I was at a meeting with several individuals from ESOP, and I wanted to know how they put people in contact with attorneys. The individuals I met with had no attorney resources to whom they could refer a Homeowner facing Foreclosure. The ESOP representatives had no where to turn when their loan modification options for Homeowners facing Foreclosure ran out. I gave them a number of my business cards and suggested that I could be a resource. It has been almost a year and those representatives have never needed my assistance.
I have run into attorneys who work for Legal Aid Societies. These attorneys are diligent, hard working and caring people. They eductae themselves on the issues and are prepared to place the Lender/Plaintiff in a position to offer a reasonable loan modification. The problem: in order to qualify for assistance from legal aid your income has to be below a certain level. Those Homeowners may obtain a level playing field, but the Lender/ Plaintiff can simply run the numbers and say that the Homeowner facing Foreclosure does not qualify. Those Homeowners Facing Foreclosure who have income to support a loan modification or otherwise defend the foreclosure complaint do not qualify for assistance from the attorneys at the Legal Aid Society.
Homeowners Facing Foreclosure, who contact a governemental agency for assistance, are told that by participating in a loan modification program the foreclosure complaint will be stopped. I originally thought that this was misinformation purposefully provided to Homeowners Facing Foreclosure. Upon closer inspection the HUD guidelines require the Lender to take no further action to proceed toward a judgment in foreclosure or toward the Sheriff Sale. The Federal Governmental Agency that provides the assistance states that the Lender is not to proceed, but no one tells the Court that the Homeowner is pursuing a loan modification. No one tells the Homeowner that they need to contact the Court. As a result, the Homeowner Facing Foreclosure pursues a loan modification which remains active until the foreclosure judgment or Sheriff's sale has occurred. Now, that the Homeowner facing Foreclosure has "waived" most of their rights as a result of not participating in the foreclosure litigation, the Homeowner facing Foreclosure will receive notification that the loan modification has been denied.
Homeowners Facing Foreclosure, who are fortunate enough to find one of the many websites/ blogs that provide information to the Homeowners, must be overwhelmed with all of the inform that is provided. As an attorney, I find the information provided helpful. However, if I place myself as a Homeowner facing Foreclosure, I do not know where to start. Most of the information is at the Calculus Level, and I am looking for the answer to 2+2. Even the websites providing information encourage the Homeowner to contact an attorney and provide lists of trusted attorneys. But that information is not front and center, and therefore must be overlooked.
I must assume that being a Homeowner Facing Foreclosure trying to find help places so much pressure, fear and anxiety upon the Homeowner that it is difficult to know where to turn. I encourage Homeowners to educate themselves, seek assistance from all agencies available, but to also participate in the legal system.
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