Six Reasons to Deal with Your Foreclosure Problem Today, not Tomorrow

Deal with your Foreclosure Today, not TomorrowBy Sean Coffey, Program Manager at Foreclosure Help

Editor’s Note: Foreclosure Help is a program funded by the Cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale, California, to assist  homeowners and tenants in these two cities.  If you are outside of San Jose or Sunnyvale, we suggest locating the nearest HUD-approved housing counseling agency on the HUD website:   HUD Approved Housing Counseling Agencies.

1) It’s almost impossible to stop a trustee sale at the last minute:   We have had a number of homeowners in San Jose or Sunnyvale who contacted Foreclosure Help a week before the trustee sale, or even a day or two before the trustee sale.  While we will make every effort to assist them, the unfortunate truth is that options become very limited the closer you are to a foreclosure trustee sale.   The bank/servicer can’t necessarily postpone the sale if it’s too close to the sale date (because of their internal policies), and there isn’t time to get your documents together and submitted and accepted by the bank or servicer.  While we can try and overcome some of these obstacles, it is far less stressful and you increase your chances of success if you can begin working with a housing counselor when you first have problems with your mortgage.  Filing bankruptcy may be an option to stop your trustee sale, but it’s better if you’re making the decision to file bankruptcy because you’ve considered all your other options and it makes the most sense in your situation.  Filing bankruptcy also takes time to do, and filing it a week or two before your trustee sale (instead of trying to do it the day before) will give you the time you need to meet with a reputable attorney, get your paperwork together, etc.

2) Don’t let “bank run-around fatigue” be the reason that you let go of your home.   In the beginning of the foreclosure crisis, many homeowners I spoke with had no idea where to turn, what to do, or how to work with their bank.  Now, in 2013, most of the homeowners that contact our program have already tried working with their bank once or twice to request a modification.  They may have been denied a modification for any number of reasons, including:

  • The bank or servicer said the package was incomplete (even though you may have sent the same documents to them multiple times).
  • The bank or servicer said that the Net Present Value (NPV) test was negative.
  • The bank or servicer did not give a reason.
  • The bank said they would call me, but they didn’t, so I assumed they were working on it, but it turns out they weren’t, and my file was closed.
  • My income wasn’t sufficient when I first submitted my request.

These are all complaints that homeowners cite when we ask if they’ve tried to modify their loans before.   This is where working with a HUD-approved housing counselor can be so important.  While you as a homeowner are only working on one mortgage, a certified housing counselor has likely worked with hundreds of homeowners before your case.  This means they bring experience and expertise in assisting you, can help you put together a complete and accurate package to send to your bank or servicer, will work with you on your budget to increase your chances of a modification, and often have contacts/channels at banks or servicers that ordinary homeowners (or “expert loan modification companies”) do not have access to.

3. If you’re able to hold on, the market is improving.   Ask any real estate agent in San Jose or Sunnyvale about the market right now, and you’ll hear how dramatically it’s improving.   If you’re able to get a modification from your bank so that you can continue making payments, then you will have time for the equity in your home to increase as the market continues to improve.

4. Foreclosure Stress is not good for you or your family.  You’ve probably heard that money issues are one of the biggest stresses in a marriage.  It is incredibly stressful to deal with foreclosure, mortgage, and money issues, and it impacts the entire family.  Part of the stress may be the uncertainty you feel about whether or not you have a real chance at a modification and holding on to your home.  By working with one of our HUD-approved housing counselors, you’ll get a much better understanding of the programs that exist like HAMP, Keep Your Home California, HARP, etc.

Instead of wondering about your eligibility for these programs and whether or not they could have helped you save your home, come meet with a housing counselor who will give you a direct, unbiased assessment of your situation.   While we can’t guarantee a loan modification (and we’d recommend running away from anybody who guarantees you a loan modification) , we can help you understand your eligibility for programs and how to be a successful candidate for a loan modification.

5. Your friend means well, but they don’t know what they’re doing:  You may have had offers of help from a friend who is an attorney or a real estate agent who thinks they can help you.   While they may have good intentions, the end result is often ugly.  We’ve had a number of homeowners who contact us after a failed attempt at a modification by an attorney or a loan modification expert.   Sometimes they’ve paid for the modification, sometimes it was done for free.   (As a side note it is ILLEGAL in California to charge an upfront fee for a loan modification).

The bottom line is that you want to work with a housing counselor who knows the programs inside and out, who doesn’t have an incentive to “sell” you on a particular solution (like a short sell), and who knows the foreclosure timeline and process in California.   Good intentions are nice for birthday presents and greeting cards, but when it’s your home on the line, you need to seek out expert, trained, and certified counselors.

6. Our services are already paid for by the Cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale through a grant:  This mean we don’t charge homeowners for our services.  This means our housing counselors can give you an honest, up-front assessment of your situation and they’re not financially motivated to try and steer you towards a certain outcome.

Call us at: 408-293-6000, visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org, or send us an email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.   The sooner you call us, the more options you have and the more helpful we can be.

If you are a homeowner living in San Jose or Sunnyvale and are struggling with your mortgage, please contact ForeclosureHelpSCC, a program funded by the City of San Jose and the City of Sunnyvale at (408)-293-6000 or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.   Our HUD-approved counselors can help you evaluate your options, learn more about federal and state programs that may help you with your mortgage issues, and will help you create a plan forward.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org or send us an email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.

Si usted es dueño de una casa en San José o en Sunnyvale y están luchando con su hipoteca, por favor póngase en contacto con ForeclosureHelpSCC, un programa financiado por la ciudad de San José y la ciudad de Sunnyvale, al (408) -293- 6000, o visite nuestro sitio: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org. Nuestros consejeros aprobados por HUD puede ayudarle a evaluar sus opciones, aprender más acerca de los programas federales y estatales que pueden ayudarle con sus problemas de hipoteca, y le ayudará a crear un plan para seguir.

Por favor, tenga en cuenta: Todos los contenidos incluidos en el blog ForeclosureHelpSCC se proporciona únicamente a título informativo y no debe ser considerada como consejo legal o fiscal. Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, por favor no dude en contactarnos a nuestra línea directa: (408) -293-6000, o visite nuestro sitio:www.foreclosurehelpscc.org o envíenos un correo electrónico: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.

Nếu bạn là một sinh hoạt chủ sở hữu nhà ở San Jose hoặc Sunnyvale và đang đấu tranh với nợ nhà, xin vui lòng liên ForeclosureHelpSCC, một chương trình được tài trợ bởi thành phố San Jose và thành phố của Sunnyvale ở (408) -293-6000 hoặc truy cập trang web của chúng tôi: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org. Nhân viên tư vấn của chúng tôi đã được HUD chấp thuận có thể giúp bạn đánh giá các lựa chọn của bạn, tìm hiểu thêm về các chương trình của liên bang và tiểu bang có thể giúp bạn với các vấn đề thế chấp của bạn, và sẽ giúp bạn tạo ra một kế hoạch phía trước.

Xin lưu ý: Tất cả các nội dung trên Blog ForeclosureHelpSCC được cung cấp thông tin duy nhất và không nên coi là hợp pháp hoặc tư vấn thuế. Nếu bạn có bất cứ câu hỏi , xin vui lòng liên hệ với chúng tôi qua đường dây nóng: (408) -293-6000, hoặc truy cập vào trang của chúng tôi: http://www.foreclosurehelpscc.org hoặc gửi email cho chúng tôi: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.

Five Important Policy Updates For California Homeowners and Tenants in 2013 Related to Foreclosures, Short Sales, and the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights

New Laws in 2013 for California Homeowners

By Sean Coffey, MPA, Program Manager of ForeclosureHelpSCC

1) Independent Foreclosure Review: The New York Times broke the news on December 31 that the Independent Foreclosure Review may be replaced.  The article explains that regulators and banking officials have been meeting in hopes of designing a less cumbersome, less expensive way of compensating homeowners who were improperly foreclosed on by their banks or servicers.  During the few weeks leading up to the December 31st deadline for the Independent Foreclosure Review, we received an increase in phone calls and google searches which went to our blog pages explaining how to apply for the Independent Foreclosure Review.

However, we were also very concerned about the many shortcomings of the review (read our compilation of media reports at a previous blog posting: “7 Reasons to Postpone the Independent Foreclosure Review”), and so we created a petition on Change.org asking regulators to postpone the deadline until after they had released the results of at least 215,000 cases.   The regulators in charge of the program have not yet released any information about their plans, and we suggest that homeowners and former homeowners continue watching the news, checking our blog, and checking the website for the Independent Foreclosure Review for any updates.

2) Mortgage Debt Forgiveness: Housing Wire reports that the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act was extended for another year.  This is an important policy win for homeowners who are struggling with their mortgages because without this extension, debt forgiveness from a modification, short sale, or foreclosure would have been taxed in 2013. For more information, visit our previous blog: Foreclosures in San Jose and Sunnyvale: Three Reasons Time is Not on Your Side

3) Unemployment benefits were also extended as part of the Fiscal Cliff negotiations.  Homeowners in California who are struggling to pay their mortgage should consider applying for the Keep Your Home California Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program.  More information at our previous blog here: “Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, Part of Keep Your Home California: How Does It Work?”

4) The California Foreclosure Refund deadline is fast approaching- it’s January 18, 2013.  As part of the Attorney General Settlement, there is a foreclosure refund for homeowners who were improperly foreclosed on by one of the large five banks (Ally/GMAC (800-766-4622), Bank of America/Countrywide (877-488-7814), Citibank (866-272-4749), JPMorgan Chase (866-372-6901) and Wells Fargo/Wachovia (800-288-3212).  For more information, see our previous blog: “California Foreclosure Refund Program, Part of the Attorney General Settlement”

5) Homeowner’s Bill of Rights:  This set of laws went into effect on January 1, 2013, and are designed to address the many loan servicing abuses that homeowners have experienced since the foreclosure crisis began.  These include “dual-tracking” (processing a foreclosure while a modification request is also being considered), having to speak with multiple people at their bank or servicer (banks and servicers are now supposed to provide a single point of contact), and other provisions.  In addition, when a person purchases a foreclosed home in California, if there are existing tenants, the new owner must give them a 90 day eviction notice.  This is an additional 30 days more than the previous 60 day requirement.  For more information, visit the Attorney General’s website: California Homeowner Bill of Rights.

I wrote my master’s thesis on similar legislation enacted in North Carolina, and one of the big “take-aways” from my research is that these types of laws are only effective to the extent that homeowners know about their rights under the law, and have the knowledge to complain to regulators when the law isn’t being followed or the ability to hire an attorney and sue their bank or servicer.  So, ForeclosureHelp will be making strong efforts to educate homeowners about their rights under this new legislation.

California Homeowners should also know that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also proposing mortgage servicing regulations, nicknamed the “no run-around” rules.  Homeowners can also file a RESPA request if they are seeking information from their bank or servicer, or if there is a dispute about payments being credited, etc.  For more information, see our previous post: “New Mortgage Servicing Rules Proposed- What Does it Mean for You? Part 2 of 2”

If you are a homeowner living in San Jose or Sunnyvale and are struggling with your mortgage, please contact ForeclosureHelpSCC, a program funded by the City of San Jose and the City of Sunnyvale at (408)-293-6000 or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.   Our HUD-approved counselors can help you evaluate your options, learn more about federal and state programs that may help you with your mortgage issues, and will help you create a plan forward.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org or send us an email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.

Si usted es dueño de una casa en San José o en Sunnyvale y están luchando con su hipoteca, por favor póngase en contacto con ForeclosureHelpSCC, un programa financiado por la ciudad de San José y la ciudad de Sunnyvale, al (408) -293- 6000, o visite nuestro sitio: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org. Nuestros consejeros aprobados por HUD puede ayudarle a evaluar sus opciones, aprender más acerca de los programas federales y estatales que pueden ayudarle con sus problemas de hipoteca, y le ayudará a crear un plan para seguir.

Por favor, tenga en cuenta: Todos los contenidos incluidos en el blog ForeclosureHelpSCC se proporciona únicamente a título informativo y no debe ser considerada como consejo legal o fiscal. Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, por favor no dude en contactarnos a nuestra línea directa: (408) -293-6000, o visite nuestro sitio:www.foreclosurehelpscc.org o envíenos un correo electrónico: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.

Independent Foreclosure Review Deadline is December 31, 2012. Learn How to Apply Here.

Independent Foreclosure ReviewBy Sean Coffey, Program Manager at Foreclosure Help.

There is just 31 days left to apply for the Independent Foreclosure Review.
The Independent Foreclosure Review was included in a settlement between federal regulators and 14 banks for the way they processed modifications and foreclosures in 2009 and 2010.

Eligibility: If a homeowner was in any sort of “foreclosure action” between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, and they feel it was improperly processed, then they may want to learn more and consider applying.  A foreclosure action does not necessarily mean the house was sold, the homeowner could still be in the home.

A foreclosure action includes:

  • the home being sold through a foreclosure judgment,
  • the loan went into the foreclosure process but the homeowner brought the mortgage current or entered a payment or modification plan,
  • the home was in foreclosure and the home was sold, the borrower participated in short-sale, or gave the home back to the bank via a deed-in-lieu, or
  • the mortgage was in foreclosure, the mortgage is still behind, but a sale has not yet taken place.

It also has to be the primary residence, and it only applies to the 14 banks/servicers included in the agreement.

The 14 banks and servicers are:

There is more information about eligibility on the Independent Foreclosure Review website.

SPANISH: There is also information in Spanish about the Independent Foreclosure review available here: ¿Qué es la Revisión Independiente de la Ejecución Hipotecaria?   También: Guia para completer el formulario

If you know of any homeowners who are potentially eligible, please encourage them to contact us with questions.   If a review finds their modification or foreclosure was improperly processed, depending on the situation, the homeowner could receive financial payments, ranging from $1,000 to up to $125,000 plus equity that was lost in the foreclosure.  For more information on the financial penalties, view this chart: Financial Penalties. Thus far, the number of eligible people who have applied for a modification is far below the projections (See this June GAO report for more information), so it is important to get the word out before the deadline passes in December.

The Independent Foreclosure Review is different than the foreclosure refund program, which is part of the Attorneys General Settlement.  The deadline to apply for the foreclosure refund in California is January 18, 2013.  For more information about the foreclosure refund, visit: “California Foreclosure Refund Program, Part of the Attorney General Settlement”

If you are a homeowner living in San Jose or Sunnyvale and are struggling with your mortgage, please contact ForeclosureHelpSCC, a program funded by the City of San Jose and the City of Sunnyvale at (408)-293-6000 or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.  Our HUD-approved counselors can help you evaluate your options, learn more about federal and state programs that may help you with your mortgage issues, and will help you create a plan forward.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org or send us an email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.

California Foreclosure Refund Program, Part of the Attorney General Settlement

By JoAnn Parrott, Housing Counselor at Project Sentinel, one of the members of ForeclosureHelpSCC.

Today’s Post is about the Foreclosure Refund Program, part of the national Attorneys General Mortgage Settlement.

 What is the Foreclosure Refund Settlement program?    
The foreclosure refund program is one of three parts of the national attorneys general settlement with the five largest banks.  As part of this $25 billion settlement, approximately $1.5 billion has been earmarked for the foreclosure refunds.   The five banks (Chase, Ally/GMAC, Bank of America/Countrywide, Citibank, and Wells Fargo/Wachovia) agreed to compensate homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure inappropriately between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011.

The remaining money is being used to provide up to $3 billion (nationally) in refinancing for homeowners who are underwater.  In addition, up to $17 billion is being used for modifications (including principal reductions), short sales, and monetary assistance for homeowners who are transitioning out of their homes.

Is my lender part of the Settlement program?  The participating lenders are Ally/GMAC (800-766-4622), Bank of America/Countrywide (877-488-7814), Citibank (866-272-4749), JPMorgan Chase (866-372-6901) and Wells Fargo/Wachovia (800-288-3212).

Am I eligible to apply?  YES – Regardless of the circumstances you are currently experiencing or have experienced in the past, if your lender is participating in the program, you can apply.

How do I apply?  For the foreclosure refund program, you may receive a claim form as well as general information regarding the program from the National Settlement Administrator.  Kamala D Harris, California’s Attorney General, explained in a press release that letters are being mailed directly to 432,584 California homeowners between September 24 and October 12, 2012 about the foreclosure refund.  If you believe that you are eligible for the foreclosure refund but did not receive a form, you can call the National Mortgage Settlement Administrator at 1-866-430-8358, Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Central Time.

Once you receive the letter in the mail, you will need to complete the form and mail it back, or you can also fill it out online (but you’ll need the claim number from the letter you received, so don’t throw it away).  More instructions are on the National Mortgage Settlement website. 

For the other two parts of the settlement (refinancing and loan modifications), you can contact your lender directly to ask about your eligibility and the bank’s timeline for implementing these options.

How long do I have to apply?  The deadline for submitting a claim for the foreclosure refund is January 18, 2013.

What if I don’t get a letter?  If you don’t receive a letter by October 31, 2012 or if you have a different address now, contact the National Settlement Administrator at 866-430-8358 (M- F from 5am-5pm PST) or send an e-mail with your current mailing address to administrator@nationalmortgagesettlement.com.

Do I need to hire somebody to help me apply?  NO – The claim form is easy to complete.  If you have questions, call 1-866-430-8358 (M-F from 5am-5pm PST) for help or send questions via email to: administrator@nationalmortgagesettlement.com.

What if I’m contacted by an agency that wants to help me?  Be aware of possible settlement-related scams.  Do not provide personal or financial information or pay money to anyone who claims to provide settlement-related assistance.  If you believe someone is conducting a scam, contact the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit at http://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general.

What do I have to prove with my claim?   Once you are qualified, you do not need to prove financial harm to receive a payment nor do you give up your right to pursue legal action against the lender.

If you want, you can also apply for the Independent Foreclosure Review Process.  It is a settlement with other regulators and 14 banks and servicers based on robo-signing issues that occurred between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010.  The Independent Foreclosure Review deadline is soon: December 31, 2012.  More information on this program is available at our blog post about the Independent Foreclosure Review  (scroll down to the bottom of the post) or on the Independent Foreclosure Review website.

How much money will I get?  The amount of your refund depends on the total number of homeowners who decide to participate.  The estimated number of participants nationally is approximately 2 million people.

When will I get my money if I am eligible?  Payment checks are expected to be mailed to eligible participants in mid-2013.

What if I still own my property but need help paying the mortgage?  Contact your lender or a HUD-approved counseling agency to discuss your options.   To locate a HUD agency, call 800-569-4287.

If you are a homeowner living in San Jose or Sunnyvale and are struggling with your mortgage, please contact ForeclosureHelpSCC, a program funded by the City of San Joseand the City of Sunnyvale at (408)-293-6000 or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.  Our HUD-approved counselors can help you evaluate your options, learn more about federal and state programs that may help you with your mortgage issues, and will help you create a plan forward.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org or send us an email: help@foreclosurehelpscc.org.

 

Reopening of ForeclosureHelpSCC Program

By Sean Coffey, Program Manager
I am excited to announce that the ForeclosureHelpSCC program re-opened on July 17, and the program has begun assisting homeowners and tenants in San Jose and Sunnyvale who are impacted by the mortgage meltdown.  Through this program, HUD-approved housing counselors will meet with homeowners to help them understand what their options are if they are struggling to pay their mortgage.  For tenants who are in homes that have been foreclosed on, we can help them to understand their rights and options if there is a new landlord, if they want to move, or if they are being asked to vacate or are facing eviction. We can also provide tenants additional referrals for tenant-focused programs.

Consortium Partners
One of the biggest strengths of the ForeclosureHelpSCC program is that it is a consortium effort.  Our four housing counseling agencies include Asian Inc, Neighborhood Housing Services of Silicon Valley, Project Sentinel, and SurePath Financial Solutions.  The support specialists who assist with the day-to-day operations of the program are trained volunteers from the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, some of whom have been volunteering since the inception of the program in May 2009.  Legal referrals are handled through the Fair Housing Law Project at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.  Of course, none of these services would be possible without the financial support from the cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale.  This diverse base of partners is not only essential for running the program, but it also means that we are also able to reach a larger number of people that could benefit from the services of the ForeclosureHelpSCC program.

What does the Future Hold?
The program has been open for three weeks, and we are already receiving phone calls and meeting with homeowners who want to learn about their options.  Beyond word-of-mouth referrals, we also will be marketing the program widely, and this will include letting homeowners know about new programs and resources through this blog. In the coming months, we will be writing about a variety of topics related to the program, including tips for working with your bank or servicer, budgeting strategies, new programs like Keep Your Home California, and new legislation like the California homeowner’s Bill of Rights.

Independent Foreclosure Review
For our first post, we’d like to highlight the Independent Foreclosure Review, which is especially timely because the deadline to apply for a review was just extended to December 2012.  The Independent Foreclosure Review was included in a settlement between federal regulators and 14 banks for the way they processed modifications and foreclosures in 2009 and 2010.

If a homeowner was in any sort of “foreclosure action” between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, and they feel it was improperly processed, then they may want to learn more and consider applying.  A foreclosure action does not necessarily mean the house was sold, the homeowner could still be in the home.

A foreclosure action includes:

  • the home being sold through a foreclosure judgement,
  • the loan went into the foreclosure process but the homeowner brought the mortgage current or entered a payment or modification plan,
  • the home was in foreclosure and the home was sold, the borrower participated in short-sale, or gave the home back to the bank via a deed-in-lieu, or
  • the mortgage was in foreclosure, the mortgage is still behind, but a sale has not yet taken place.

It also has to be the primary residence, and it only applies to the 14 banks/servicers included in the agreement. There is more information about eligibility on the Independent Foreclosure Review website.

If you know of any homeowners who are potentially eligible, please encourage them to contact us with questions.   If a review finds their modification or foreclosure was improperly processed, depending on the situation, the homeowner could receive financial payments, ranging from $1,000 to up to $125,000 plus equity that was lost in the foreclosure.  For more information on the financial penalties, view this chart: Financial Penalties. Thus far, the number of eligible people who have applied for a modification is far below the projections (See this June GAO report for more information), so it is important to get the word out before the deadline passes in December.

Please note: All content included in the ForeclosureHelpSCC blog is provided for information only and should NOT be considered legal or tax advice.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on our hotline: (408)-293-6000, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org

We encourage your feedback, comments, and suggestions for future blog topics. However, the comment area is NOT for soliciting business, and any comments that appear to solicit business will not be posted.