?It?s not a secret? It?s just information you don?t have yet? -author unknown
It?s scary, confusing and downright frustrating when all of a sudden out of nowhere (or so it seems) you are served with an Intent To Foreclose. If you are like the hundreds of thousands of victims of companies like Fairbanks Capital/Select Portfolio, Litton or EMC (just to name a few) you don?t have to legitimately be in default for them to institute foreclosure, they just need to claim you are in default. While by no means am I insinuating that servicers orchestrate every foreclosure on their books, we know that many, mine included, have been.
Back in 2002 when my ordeal formally began, there was no handbook telling me how to handle the situation, I literally made it up as I went, hoping I was making the right choices. It is with this in mind that I offer some suggestions on how others might learn from what I went through. I want to stress that what you read here is not intended to replace the advice of qualified legal counsel but merely a suggestion of steps you can take to help protect yourself.
I?m current on my payments, but I just received a Notice of Intent To Foreclose in the mail. What do I do?
There are a few steps you can take at this early stage, which will help you immensely down the road.
1.) Find out what the foreclosure laws are in your state, this will do a number of things, not the least of which is let you know a basic timeline for how things (in theory) are going to proceed.
2.) Gather and organize all your monthly mortgage statements, proofs of payment (cancelled checks, money orders, etc.) and any and all written communication to you from the servicer of your loan.
3.) Find the papers you were given when you closed your loan. Make sure that among those papers are a copy of your Note and Mortgage.
4.) Do a little research on your property down at the registry, see what?s filed there and make copies of everything. Once you have the papers, it should show you who the lender is.
5.) Write a one or two page narrative about your situation. Leaving the emotion out of it, explain what is going on.
6.) Start a timeline of your situation, include everything that has happened and update it frequently.
I?ve got all my papers in order, now what?
Here?s where the real choices begin and where the time line of how foreclosure works in your state come into play. The more organized you are, the easier it?s going to be for you to make other?s understand your situation.
1.) Assuming you haven?t done so already, write and send a qualified written request pursuant to RESPA to both the servicer and lender of your loan. Send these letters U.S.P.S. Certified, Return Receipt Requested.
2.) You can file a complaint with your state?s Banking Department.
3.) You can file a complaint with your state?s Attorney General Consumer Protection Division.
4.) Find, vet and hire a competent lawyer. Ultimately I learned that I needed to be looking for a Consumer Protection Attorney. One of the more useful tools I have found for that was the Martindale-Hubble website.
What do you mean, ?vet? a lawyer?
It?s such a relief when you finally hear those four little words, ?I?ll take your case?. But do you really know who you?ve hired? Use Google, the Bar Association and whatever means are available to you to learn all you can about the lawyer before you hire them. Make sure you feel comfortable working with the person before you hire them because although they work for you, you still have to be able to get along.
Also, BEFORE you give a lawyer ANY information about your case, request that they do a conflict check on the players involved to make sure they can represent you.
I can?t find a lawyer, what do I do?
In some cases victims end up going pro se and since I fortunately didn?t have to go that route, there isn?t too much I can offer on the subject. Many Courts have websites on which they offer assistance to pro se litigants. I do know that, even someone who is pro se is held by the Court to the same standard as if he or she were an actual lawyer. Be careful, be cautions and learn the Court Rules!
I obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), what do I do with it?
Make sure you have a certified copy, that is to say a copy that has the Court?s stamp on it and IMMEDIATELY go down and file it at the Registry! It may cost you a few bucks but the peace of mind that gives is definitely worth it! Make sure you always have a copy on hand near your front door, just in case. Filing the TRO at the Registry should prevent anyone from making additions or changes to the documents on file.
Are there any other suggestions you can make?
1.) Yes! Make sure that whether you have a lawyer or not, that when you file in Court to stop the foreclosure, that both the lender and servicer are listed as Defendants. If you are in a state where you are dealing with a Judicial Foreclosure, make sure that both the lender and servicer are Plaintiffs in the matter and if not file whatever papers necessary to make it so!
2.) Remember to take care of yourself and your significant other. This may be a long fight (remember mine started in 2002 and I?m still here in 2008) and you?ll need your strength, sense of humor & each other to get through it all.
3.) Don?t let this become your world. It?s easier said than done, believe me. You need to find a way to get away from the stress and frustration.
Don't forget to check out our other resources for homeowners:Eckert Seamans