By Sean Coffey, MPA, Program Manager of ForeclosureHelpSCC
In a famous Rolling Stones song, Mick Jagger told us that “Time is on My Side.” However, this is NOT the case if you are having trouble paying your mortgage here in San Jose or Sunnyvale, California. While you have probably heard stories of people not paying their mortgages for a long time and remaining in their home, these stories are the exception, not the rule.
In today’s post, we are going to review three “time issues” that homeowners should consider if they are having trouble paying their mortgage:
1. Foreclosure timeline in California: Once you miss your first mortgage payment, it will be reported on your credit. However, it isn’t until after you miss your second mortgage payment that your bank or servicer can file a Notice of Default. This is the first step in the foreclosure process. While it is serious, you still have at least 90 days after the Notice of Default is filed before you could receive a Notice of Trustee Sale. During that 90 days, you can bring the mortgage current or work with your bank on an arrangement like a modification or repayment plan.
After the 90 days has passed, then your bank or servicer can send you a Notice of Trustee Sale. A Notice of Trustee Sale tells you that the home is going to be sold in three weeks. These are the minimum time frames allowed by law. Your bank or servicer may move slower than these time-frames, but they can’t move any faster.
An important note: the Notice of Default and Notice of Trustee Sale are both public record, so you may be contacted by people who want to “help.” I’m biased, but based on our experience cleaning up after these “experts,” I would be very wary about accepting help from people that call you. In fact, in California, it is illegal to charge an up-front fee for a loan modification. Instead, if you’re here in San Jose or Sunnyvale, call ForeclosureHelpSCC (408-293-6000), where we can set up an appointment for you to meet with a trained housing counselor from one of our four HUD-approved counseling agencies. We are funded by federal and local grants, so we do not charge the homeowner for our services.
2. The Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act is currently set to expire at the end of 2012.
Earlier this month the Los Angeles Times reported on a topic that has many people in the housing world concerned: “Mortgage debt relief may bring new pain: a tax bill.” The Times explained that a law passed in 2007- The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act is set to expire at the end of the year. Prior to enactment of this law, if you had a foreclosure or a short sale, the difference between what you owed and what the house ultimately sold for (at auction or via a short sale) was considered taxable income. The same issue would apply for principal reductions. For example, if you had a mortgage balance of $450,000, but short-sold your house for $400,000, then the $50,000 difference would have been considered income by the IRS. However, under the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act, that income has been exempted.
As the Times notes, many of the new settlements, like the Attorneys General settlement, include principal reduction, and much of the relief isn’t slated to begin until 2013. Kevin Stein from the California Reinvestment Coalition pointed out that the relief offered under these settlements won’t be nearly as meaningful if homeowners are being taxed on it.
While there is legislation pending to extend the debt forgiveness, nobody knows for sure what will happen. If an extension is not put in place, homeowners who already face difficult financial situations could find themselves facing a large tax bill.
3. Independent Foreclosure Review Program This is the third “time issue” for San Jose and Sunnyvale homeowners to consider. In our earlier blog post, we explained the details of the Independent Foreclosure Review for homeowners who dealt with issues related to robo-signing from 2009-2010. The deadline to apply for this program is December 31, 2012.
Are you having trouble paying your mortgage and do you live here in San Jose or Sunnyvale California? If so, contact ForeclosureHelpSCC by telephone: (408) 293-6000, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website: www.foreclosurehelpscc.org.
ForeclosureHelpSCC is a program that is supported by the Cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale, and staffed by housing counselors from four local, HUD-approved counseling agencies. Our housing counselors can speak to you about what your options are if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, including programs like Making Home Affordable, Keep Your Home California, the Independent Foreclosure Review, and private, in-house modifications offered by banks and servicers as well. Your housing counselor can work with you to develop a plan of action to begin dealing with the problem instead of ignoring it.
Remember, the sooner you start working with a housing counselor, the more options you will have to address your mortgage situation and potentially remain in your home. Time is not on your side, so pick up the phone and give us a call.
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