Many in our community are facing foreclosure on their homes. The Florida Bar, along with Florida Legal Services and the Real Estate, Probate, and Trust Lawyers Division (RPPTL) of the Bar, has set up a program called FLASH - Florida Attorneys Saving Homes. The purpose of the program is to provide free legal representation to those facing foreclosure to help residents keep their homes. If you are a homeowner facing foreclosure, please call toll free 1-866-607-2187 for assistance.
Q: What happens when I miss my mortgage payment?
Foreclosure may occur: This is the legal means that your lender can use to repossess (take over) your home. When this happens, you must move out of your house. If your property is worth less than the total amount you owe on your mortgage loan, a deficiency judgment could be pursued.
Both foreclosures and deficiency judgments could seriously affect your ability to qualify for credit in the future. So you should avoid foreclosure if possible.
Q: What should I do?
1. DO NOT IGNORE THE LETTERS FROM YOUR LENDER. If you are having problems making your payments, call or write to your lender’s Loss Mitigation Department without delay. Explain your situation. Be prepared to provide them with financial information, such as your monthly income and expenses. Without this information, they may not be able to help.
2. Stay in your home for now. You may not qualify for assistance if you abandon your property.
3. Contact a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. Call 1-800-569-4287– or TDD 1-800-877-8339 for the housing counseling agency near you.
Q: What are my alternatives?
You may be considered for the following:
Special Forbearance: Your lender may be able to arrange a repayment plan for a temporary reduction or suspension of your payments.
Mortgage Modification: You may be able to refinance the debt and/or extend the term of your mortgage loan. This may help you catch up by reducing the monthly payments to a more affordable level.
Partial Claim: Your lender may be able to work with you to obtain a one-time payment from the FHA-Insurance fund to bring your mortgage current.
Pre-foreclosure Sale: This will allow you to avoid foreclosure by selling your property for an amount less than the amount necessary to pay off your mortgage loan.
Deed-in-lieu of foreclosure: As a last resort, you may be able to voluntarily “give back” your property to the lender. This won’t save your house, but it is not as damaging to your credit rating as a foreclosure.
Q: How do I know if I qualify for any of these alternatives?
Your lender will determine if you qualify for any of the alternatives. A housing counseling agency can also help you determine which, if any, of these options may meet your needs and also assist you in interacting with your lender. Call 1-800-569-4287 or TDD 1-800-877-8339.
Q: Should I be aware of anything else?
Yes. Beware of scams! Solutions that sound too simple or too good to be true usually are. If you’re selling your home without professional guidance, beware of buyers who try to rush you through the process. Unfortunately, there are people who may try to take advantage of your financial difficulty. Be especially alert to the following:
Equity skimming: In this type of scam, a “buyer” approaches you, offering to get you out of financial trouble by promising to pay off your mortgage or give you a sum of money when the property is sold. The “buyer” may suggest that you move out quickly and deed the property to him or her. The “buyer” then collects rent for a time, does not make any mortgage payments and allows the lender to foreclose. Remember, signing over deed to someone else does not necessarily relieve you of your obligation on your loan.
Phony counseling agencies: Some groups calling themselves “counseling agencies” may approach you and offer to perform certain services for a fee. These could well be services you could do for yourself for free, such as negotiating a new payment plan with your lender, or pursuing a pre-foreclosure sale. If you have any doubt about paying for such services, call a HUD-approved housing counseling agency at 1-800-569-4287 or TDD 1-800-877-8339. Do this before you pay anyone or sign anything.
Q: Are there any precautions I can take?
Here are several precautions that should help you avoid being “taken” by a scam artist:
1. Don’t sign any papers you don’t fully understand.
2. Make sure you get all “promises” in writing.
3. Beware of any contract of sale or loan assumption where you are not formally released from liability for your mortgage debt.
4. Check with a lawyer or your mortgage company before entering into any deal involving your home.
5. If you’re selling the house yourself to avoid foreclosure, check to see if there are any complaints against the prospective buyer. You can contact your state’s Attorney General, the State Real Estate Commission, or the local District Attorney’s Consumer Fraud Unit for this type of information.
Q: What are the main points I should remember?
1. Don’t lose your home and damage your credit history.
2. Call or write your mortgage lender immediately and be honest about your financial situation.
3. Stay in your home to make sure you qualify for assistance.
4. Arrange an appointment with a HUD-approved housing counselor to explore your options at
1-800-569-4287 or TDD 1-800-877-8339.
5. Cooperate with the counselor or lender trying to help you.
6. Explore every alternative to keep your home.
7. Beware of scams.
8. Do not sign anything you don’t understand. And remember that signing over the deed to someone else does not necessarily relieve you of your loan obligation.
Act now . Delaying can’t help. If you do nothing, YOU WILL LOSE YOUR HOME and your good credit rating.
For additional information and useful foreclosure resources, please download this Foreclosure Flyer