Those near foreclosure need law on their side

Chronicle Editorial excerpt:

As the nation’s economic crisis drags on, we’ll hear more and more about the financial and political mistakes that fueled it. But what about the legal mistakes?ForeclosureNOtice

Quiet as it’s kept, if homeowners had more legal advice and legal power to negotiate with lenders, the foreclosure epidemic might have turned out to be as threatening as the common cold.

More than 8 million American families are expected to lose their homes to foreclosure over the next four years. Foreclosures destabilize families and depress entire neighborhoods’ property values. Experts
believe that they will be the major reason why it’s going to take the housing market years to recover.

This is serious business. And yet the laws in most states don’t take foreclosures very seriously. In 30 states mortgage holders who allege that homeowners have fallen behind in their payments can auction off their homes without the intrusion of any judicial process. In 33 states homeowners don’t even have to be personally served with a foreclosure notice. Tenants have stronger protections.

Making matters worse is the fact that most homeowners don’t have access to lawyers, who have better success at negotiating with lenders and potentially finding workable solutions that avoid foreclosure. According to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, cuts to civil legal aid programs have deprived poorer homeowners of representation during one of the most critical proceedings of their lives. Many counties don’t keep this information, but they dug up information on the ones who do, and the numbers are staggering. Eighty-four percent of foreclosure defendants with subprime or nontraditional mortgages in Queens County, N.Y., went without full representation, for instance.

The “crisis” has passed.

The pain is just beginning.

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