As you may expect, home mortgage loan mitigation is not a one size fits all endeavor. The universe of possible solutions is vast. Always use an attorney for ALL loan modifications that will thoroughly review your circumstances and desires before recommending a course of action. Your financial circumstances, existing loan documentation and legal rights should always be reviewed and considered. An attorney will work with you to achieve a solution which fits for you and your family. While other organizations may simply submit a loan modification request, which may be ignored by the lender, an attorney will actively and aggressively negotiate the most advantageous solution for their clients.
In many cases, an attorney will contact your lender and get them to delay the foreclosure process without filing bankruptcy. Such a scenario allows an attorney the opportunity to negotiate a “win win” resolution for both sides. Foreclosure is generally a very costly option for lenders. In certain instances, a modification of the existing loan is a good solution. Depending on circumstances, a deed in lieu, also known as “cash for keys” or “walk away” may be the right solution to keep a foreclosure off your credit report. There are many possible solutions to resolve a situation where a homeowner is either behind on payments or likely to fall behind in the near future. Such possible solutions include a modification or restructuring of the terms of your current loan to lower your mortgage payments, a recapitalization and principal balance reduction, a rescission of your current loan (up to three years) or a lawsuit against the mortgage company for predatory lending violations if determined to be appropriate after a proper loan document audit. There are many other possible resolutions as well. An attorney will assist you to determine which possible option is best for you.
Currently, Aurora, Citibank, Chase, Countrywide, GMAC, Litton, Wachovia and WAMU are among the major lenders routinely offering loan modifications. Although many lenders are willing to consider loan modifications, many lenders are unable to keep pace with the current demand for loan modifications. Even in cases where the borrower is currently in default, a lender offered forbearance agreement may not be the best resolution for the borrower. An attorney may be able to stop foreclosure by negotiating a loan modification; even in cases where a previous forbearance agreement has failed. Because we process many loan modification requests, our current relationships with lenders and loan servicing companies may allow us to bypass overwhelmed loss mitigation personal and negotiate directly with asset and portfolio managers as well as the lender’s legal department.
In order to secure a loan modification, an attorney will make use of the tools provided by federal law. Such federal tools include both the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). Both state and federal laws require mortgage companies to adhere to certain guidelines when originating home loans. Some existing mortgage loans have TILA and/or RESPA violations. When such a violation is determined to have occurred, an attorney will utilize such violation as leverage to negotiate a favorable resolution for our clients. Generally, lenders will seek to avoid costly litigation and are more agreeable to reaching voluntary solutions when such violations are identified and brought to their attention by qualified law firms.
During times of real estate booms, some brokers and lenders engage in unfair or illegal practices to close loans. An example of these practices may include charging unexplainable or unreasonable fees and charges. Other examples include not fully explaining interest rate adjustments, pre-payment penalties or the implications of option ARM loans with minimum payment options. Additionally, some brokers and lenders illegally inflated or otherwise manipulated financial statements to qualify buyers who would otherwise not have qualified for their loans. Simply refinancing out of these inappropriate home mortgage loans is now generally not an option because of declining property value or debt to income ratios.
An attorney can help to identify if you have been the victim of such an issue. In such a case, we can attempt to resolve these issues fast and efficiently so the borrower doesn’t fall victim to foreclosure proceedings. Helping stop foreclosure and restoring financial stability for our clients is our main goal.
There are additional reasons to conduct a detailed review of the client’s mortgage home loan documents. If a lender fails to properly provide adequate notice of the borrower’s right to cancel, the right of rescission may be available to the borrower for up to three years. When such right is extended for three years, the borrower may be able to rescind the loan during such period. In such a circumstance, the loan is treated as if it never existed. Essentially, the borrower becomes entitled to all profits made by the lender as a result of the loan. As such, the lender or other creditor would be required to refund all interest paid, all closing fees, all broker fees, and even pay the borrower’s attorney fees. This circumstance can create a legitimate windfall to the borrower. The extended right of rescission is a powerful tool to assist borrowers who have been victims of predatory lending. An attorney can assist in determining if such a right exists and will assist its clients in exercising such right in appropriate circumstances.
Mortgage and loan servicing companies generally do not want your home and most will work diligently with a law firm to avoid foreclosure. Litigating mortgage fraud and predatory lending cases can become costly for both sides and should be avoided unless the lender will not comply or there are significant damages to the borrower. Our clients retain us to make a best effort at resolving their hardship and to fight for their rights. In most cases, the client’s goal can be realized without costly litigation by using existing relationships to find an amicable resolution to stop foreclosures.
A loan modification proposal offered by a law firm may result in a more favorable loan modification agreement than your lender will offer you directly. Many modifications offered by mortgage lenders and loan servicing companies are forbearance agreements and are not a true modification to the terms of your mortgage. These types of agreements generally do not benefit the borrower in the long term and home owners facing foreclosure should consult with a law firm and fully understand the terms and ramifications before signing any of these documents.
In cases where neither refinancing nor a loan modification is a possibility, a short sale or a deed in lieu may be among the best options to both avoid foreclosure and a deficiency judgment. An attorney can help borrowers navigate through the possible options to determine which resolution is best for your particular circumstances. A real estate short sale occurs when the lender agrees to discount the loan balance and accept the sale proceeds in full satisfaction of the outstanding debt. In such cases, the lender has the right to approve or disapprove of the proposed sale. Lenders are generally inclined to agree to a short sale if they determine such action will mitigate losses as compared to foreclosure. The advantages of a short sale to the borrower include avoiding a foreclosure reported on credit history and mitigating or eliminating a possible deficiency. A short sale is generally faster and less expensive than a foreclosure. In summary, a short sale is a negotiation with a lender resulting in a payoff less than what is currently owed.
Not all lenders are equally amenable to short sales. Many lenders have pre-determined criteria for such transactions. Distressed lenders may accept any reasonable offer. However, junior lien holders such as second mortgages, HELOC lenders, and HOA (special assessment liens), may also need to approve of any short sale. Objectors to short sales sometimes include tax lien holders (income, estate or corporate franchise tax – as opposed to real property taxes, which have priority even unrecorded) and mechanic’s lien holders. It may be possible for junior lien holders to prevent a short sale. Additionally, lien holders who are not mortgagees are generally unlikely to forgive the debts owed to them.
While a short sale appears on a borrower’s credit report differently than a foreclosure, a short sale may nonetheless have severe consequences for the borrower in the future. A short sale may appear on a borrower’s credit report as “foreclosure proceedings started.” While not a foreclosure, a short sale may prevent the borrower from obtaining a new mortgage for seven or more years. Short sales are complex matters which should be handled carefully by experienced professionals.
The loss mitigation industry is a recent advent and has become large as a result of the current economic and real estate crisis. The loan modification industry is currently inundated with marginally qualified or unethical individuals, who are essentially salespeople, who have accepted fees in exchange for half hearted efforts or no efforts at all to provide loss mitigation services, loan modification or stop foreclosure services. As such, several states are currently considering legislation which requires attorney involvement for loan modification requests.
Some companies offering loan modification services claim to be “attorney backed” or “attorney based” in their marketing. In such a case, borrowers should be aware they are not contracting with or engaging the services of a law firm. Some companies simply hire an attorney for consultation to claim an association with an attorney. In such a case, the attorney does not represent the borrower and the company is not bound by the same ethical duties required by licensed attorneys. Additionally, no attorney client privilege exists with such a company and statements made to them are discoverable. To be sure, the borrower is encouraged to request to speak personally with the attorney.
“Attorney based” loan modification companies are not law firms. As such, when you discuss the details of your mortgage with these companies, there is no attorney client privilege. Any conversation you have with a non-law firm loan modification company is discoverable by a state agency and not protected by attorney client privilege and therefore not confidential. Prosecuting agencies have become much more aggressive recently in bringing prosecutions for mortgage fraud based on overly optimistic or inflated representations regarding income or monetary reserves at the time of qualifying for the loan. Therefore, if you are concerned that statements you made on your mortgage loan application could be construed as false and you are at risk for foreclosure, please contact an attorney immediately. Do not discuss this issue with anyone other than a licensed attorney.
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