Our clients tell us they are receiving mail, email, phone calls, even people ringing their doorbell, with offers to "help" them. If you have been contacted through any of these means, that should immediately make you suspicious. Legitimate consumer attorneys do not bombard borrowers with any of these attempts at communications. Unfortunately, there are many businesses that exist for the purpose of taking advantage of the fear and desperation of people in mortgage trouble.
Some will offer to buy your house, either from you or your lender, and rent it back to you. Some will offer to "negotiate" for you with your lender. Some will offer to lend you money to cure your default, or other kinds of "help". Be assured that none of these individuals are doing this to help you - they want to make a profit for themselves, and the ways they do that can only harm you, not help you.
What Did the Communication Look Like
Some of the things they send out look like "official" court notices, except that they give you THEIR name, phone number, web site, etc. Some are made to look innocent and informal. I have one here that is made to look like a handwritten note on yellow lined paper, complete with smudges. Some look like telegrams, some look like checks. NONE of these are legitimate. "Loan modification" assistance and "forensic audits" are everywhere. Attorneys General are targeting these, which charge you lots of money, generally for nothing.
No court would send you a notice with the name of any agency to contact, except the local county bar association, court clerk, or local non-profit legal aid agency. Anything that looks like this is a scam. The handwritten note on yellow lined paper was really printed on a printing press, and is sent out by a company who makes its money by getting YOUR house.
Did You See or Hear an Ad?
Some of these exploiters have glossy, professional-seeming ads on the TV, radio, website, billboard or other media. They promise miracles, guarantee results and money-back guarantees, offer too good to be true financial terms. BEWARE. Any person or entity that guarantees results or promises results is lying to you, since there is no legitimate way they can make such promises. Many of them are, or are related to, the SAME mortgage brokers who got you into trouble in the first place !
Can I Help Myself and File My Own Response ?
That is VERY dangerous. If you have received a summons, that means your lender has commenced an mortgage foreclosure lawsuit against you. No matter how well intentioned, even if it is the Clerk of Court, no one can help you to know what to say in order to do this properly. In order for a response to have an benefit to you, it needs to be legally sufficient. That means it needs to raise legal issues that are appropriate to your case, and which also raise issues which are within the court's power to decide. When homeowners try to do this, they make the process easier for the lender, because they generally wind up admitting that they owe the money, and beg the court for more time to do a short sale, or a modification with the lender. By definition, these are not issues that the court could involve itself in, even if it wished to.
No two cases are exactly alike, and no one but a highly qualified foreclosure defense attorney will know what the right response for you would be.
Is There Any Real Help Available?
Fortunately, there IS help, but no miracle cures or guarantees. There is a small group of consumer defense attorneys in the US who are knowledgeable in mortgage and foreclosure law and in consumer defense. These attorneys network constantly, to share what they know in order to help one another to help YOU.
Properly defending against mortgage foreclosure CAN be done. Even if you are not making your payments, there are often ways to get behind this. If your mortgage was predatory (it was a mortgage that was too large, had terms that were too steep, or for some other reason was one you could never reasonably have been able to pay), if done properly, this can often be raised in defense. If there was bait and switch, inadequate or improper disclosure, these are also issues that can form the basis for a real defense. In those cases, it is no wonder the borrower could not keep paying !
What About the Modification Programs I Have Read and Heard About ?
While some of the large lenders and servicers have announced that they will work with their borrowers on "loan modifications", unfortunately, this is usually not what it appears to be. Most of these programs, if they will agree to them at all, are temporary - they will sometimes agree to a lower payment temporarily, but in most cases are adding the shortfall to your loan, making the balance EVEN LARGER ! If your house is "upside down" (you owe more on it than it is worth), unless the difference is slight, odds are you will never get your mortgage paid down enough to be able to sell it or refinance it.
The Federal Government's Home Affordable Modification Program likewise is not working out, in large part because the mortgage companies are in control of it, and they are the problem in the first place, and so are making the same mess of the HAMP program that they did of mortgages and foreclosures.
What Can I Do If I Have Been Victimized ?
Many states' Attorneys General have become militant about this problem, as have many state Bar Associations, as well as the entities who license realtors. If you have been victimized, it may be that they can help you. The Office of the Attorney General in your state may be able to obtain restitution.
Additional resources provided by the author
Don't be a victim of con artists ! Help is out there, but you need to be VERY careful, some of the con artists are very slick and persuasive.
Be careful of what you read in the papers or see on TV. In most cases they will tell you to call your lender to see if they will work with you. Unfortunately, most lenders can't do enough to make any real difference, and while you are waiting for their answer, you are losing valuable time. If foreclosure has already been filed, you have a VERY limited time to respond, or your right to do it can be permanently lost.