Many people go through the foreclosure process on their own, without the help of a lawyer. Hiring a lawyer can be expensive and there are not enough free lawyers to help everyone who needs one.
On the other hand, a lawyer can make a big difference in certain situations. Below we identify five such situations. We encourage you to contact a lawyer as soon as possible if you find yourself in one of these situations.
I’m in court mediation and the mediator has filed a “Report of Non-Compliance”
A mediator files a Report of Non-Compliance when he or she believes that either party is not complying with the rules or behaviors expected in mediation. The report goes to a judge. The judge will review the mediation file and may schedule a court hearing to discuss the problems. Often those problems relate to a mortgage company’s failure to timely review documents filed by homeowners – or other violations of the mediation rules.
If a Report of Non-Compliance cites problems with the mortgage company’s behavior, you should contact a lawyer. An experienced lawyer can analyze and highlight to a judge the scope and seriousness of the problems. This could increase the likelihood that the court will issue meaningful sanctions against the mortgage company. A strong court order in this situation could help your resolve your case at mediation.
My mortgage company has changed since I fell behind on my mortgage
In order for a mortgage company (or “servicer”) to foreclose on your home, it must prove its case in court. This usually involves a witness from your mortgage company explaining in court about the amounts you owe and other items related to the loan.
It is not unusual for your mortgage company to change from time to time. If this happens after you have fallen behind on your mortgage, the new servicer does not always have all the information about your account. It may not know enough to determine how much you really owe or what payments were made or missed before the loan transferred. The new servicer may not know about modification efforts and payments you made with the old servicer.
You should talk to a lawyer. The mortgage company has the right to foreclosure if you have defaulted on your mortgage, but you have the right to make sure they are right about the amount you owe and that they have followed all of the rules.
I didn’t receive a proper “notice of right to cure” my mortgage debt
Before a mortgage company can start a foreclosure case against you, it has to give you the chance to catch up on your past due amount. This notice is sometimes called the “right to cure” notice or “notice of default.” The law requires the notice to include certain information. The mortgage company must send you a notice that includes:
- A clear statement that you have 35 days from the date of the notice to “cure” the mortgage (meaning, pay the amount needed to catch up)
- A listing of the past due amounts, broken down into categories
- A listing of other charges that are due, broken down into categories
- Information about options you have to try to avoid foreclosure, including a list of free housing counselors that help homeowners
- The contact information for someone at the mortgage company who has authority to modify a mortgage loan (giving you better, more affordable terms)
- In most cases, information that mediation is available if the case goes to court
Sometimes mortgage companies send out these notices but don’t include all of the required information. For example, they may not have told you about the help offered by free housing counselors. Or they may not have included contact information so you can talk over workout options with someone at your mortgage company.
Sometimes the notice does not include a clear and itemized amount owed. It might only show a total amount that isn’t broken down. Or it might say that you should call to find out the exact amount you should pay.
These are all examples of notices that may not comply with the law and, therefore, may not be good enough to serve as the basis of a foreclosure.
If you think that your notice did not include all of the required information, you should talk to a lawyer. You might have a good legal defense to the foreclosure.
“MERS” isn’t my bank but it’s listed in my documents
A company called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems) is involved in many mortgages. MERS is an electronic registry intended to track transfers of mortgages.
If your mortgage document states something like “MERS is the mortgagee of record,” you should contact a lawyer. You might have a good legal defense to the foreclosure.
The bank’s lawyer has asked me to sign a “consent judgment” or “stipulated judgment”
A judgment is the final decision in your case. By signing a consent or stipulated judgment, you are agreeing with the bank to a legal outcome on your case. Usually a judge will sign this, and it will become the final decision in your case. A consent judgment often allows you less time in the house than if you waited for the bank to prove its case in court. Sometimes you might be offered something by the bank in exchange for agreeing to a consent judgment. There are other consequences of signing a consent judgment that you may not have thought about.
Again, this is a final legal determination in your foreclosure case. You should contact a lawyer before signing. You might qualify for free legal assistance. Even if you don’t, it is less costly to pay a lawyer to review this type of document and provide some advice than it would be to hire a lawyer to represent you in court. And the advice you get may save you a lot in the long run.
To see if you qualify for free help, contact:
Pine Tree Legal Assistance: Contact your local office
Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project Foreclosure Line: 1-800-442-4293
Legal Services for the Elderly HelpLine (for persons 60 and over): 1-800-750-5353
To explore hiring a private attorney, contact:
Maine Lawyer Referral Service: 1-800-860-1460