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Through funding through the National Mortgage Settlement, Attorney General Schneiderman has dedicated $60 million three years to fund housing counselors and legal services across the state. Housing counselors provide free advice and assistance on foreclosure avoidance, loan modification and refinance application assistance, credit issues, and other relevant topics. Legal Services organizations provide direct assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure, including legal advice, advocacy and litigation services.
To be connected with a legal services or housing counseling organization near you, call 855-HOME-456 or 2-1-1.
How to Avoid Foreclosure
Contact your lender: If you are unable to make your mortgage payment, call your lender immediately to discuss the available alternatives to foreclosure. Many lenders offer foreclosure avoidance programs and have pledged publically to assist distressed borrowers. These can lead to win-win solutions for you and the lender.
Respond to your lender: Some lenders contact distressed borrowers to discuss available foreclosure avoidance options. Respond to these efforts. Your failure to do so may indicate a lack of interest in or commitment to paying your mortgage, and could result in the lender initiating foreclosure proceedings.
Check your eligibility for the federal government’s modification and refinance programs: You may qualify for assistance under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), or other similar government programs. If you cannot afford to make your monthly mortgage payments, you may qualify for a loan modification or loan refinance to make your monthly payment more affordable. To find out more about the program, visit www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov.
Foreclosure rescue scams can waster your money, ruin your credit record, and wipe out any equity you have in your home. Here are some useful tips to help you protect yourself from foreclosure rescue scams.
Be Aware of Rescue Scams
Be suspicious of anyone that solicits you for a mortgage modification, especially if they ask you to pay an upfront fee. Many for-profit companies that promise they can get you a modification will simply take your money and provide little help. Even legitimate for-profit companies will charge you for a service that you can get for free from a not-for-profit counselor that is funded by the Attorney General’s Office, or that you can do for yourself.
Loan Modification Scams: Scam artists scour foreclosure notices and filings to find potential victims desperate to save their homes. They may solicit you in-person, by mail, e-mail or telephone, or via advertisements, including TV and radio commercials, and often promise that they can save your home from foreclosure. Be wary of anyone that makes outrageous claims, like a 90% or 100% success rate in achieving modifications, or claims to be affiliated with the government. Many scam artists use official-looking logos, names or website addresses to make you think they are part of an official government program, such as the federal HAMP program or the National Mortgage Settlement. Remember, you can be referred to free assistance from government approved, not-for-profit housing counselors and legal services by calling the Attorney General’s foreclosure prevention hotline at 855-HOME-456 or by simply calling 2-1-1.
Lease-back or Repurchase schemes: Be very suspicious if someone offers to pay your mortgage and rent your home back to you. This scheme often involves signing over the deed to your home with the option to buy it back later. The terms of such transactions are so complex or fraudulent that homeowners are rarely, if ever, able to repurchase their homes. Sometimes the property is sold to another party without the homeowner’s knowledge.
Suspect any advertisement, person, or company that approaches you and demands an up-front fee before providing foreclosure prevention services.
Consult with a certified housing counselor or legal services attorney before signing any agreement for foreclosure rescue services.
Know what you are signing and understand every document you sign. Seek advice from a lawyer or an approved counselor before signing any agreement involving title to your home or refinancing your mortgage.
Foreclosure consultants must give you a written contract that gives you the right to cancel within five business days and is written in the same language that you used in discussions with the consultant. Get promises in writing because oral promises and agreements relating to your home can be very difficult to enforce. Be wary of anyone that will not provide a written contract.
If you believe you have been scammed by a foreclosure rescue operator or a debt relief organization, please submit a complaint to the Attorney General’s Office. Remember, you can also call 855-HOME-456 or 2-1-1 to be connected to a free, not-for-profit housing counselor or legal services attorney.
Know Your Rights
New York is a judicial foreclosure state and a lender must to go through the court system to recover any debt owed. The foreclosure process in New York currently takes about 15 months and you can expect most lenders will take action very quickly to late payments on your mortgage.
Notice of default
If you are late with a payment, a reminder will be sent to you. A late change is likely to be added to your mortgage and the lender will at this point attempt to contact you by letter or by phone. It is important that you respond to your lender immediately. There are options available, but the longer you wait, the fewer options you may have.
Acceleration letter and pre-foreclosure notice
If you are living in the house with the mortgage, the lender must send you a pre-foreclosure notice and an Acceleration Letter, at least 90 days before commencing foreclosure. If no alternative to foreclose is agreed upon with the lender during this time, you will be informed of the breach in writing and the legal action for foreclosure can start.
If you are in default, the lender has the right to accelerate the mortgage. This means that the entire outstanding amount is due and if they are not paid in full by a certain date, the lender can accelerate the entire amount of the mortgage. If an agreement is not made, they have the right to foreclosure. This letter is often sent after a borrower is two or three months in default.
Pre-Foreclosure Filing Notice
Since January 14, 2010, this notice has to be sent at least 90 days before filing a foreclosure summons and complaint. It must tell you two things:
- How much you must pay to bring your loan current;
- Name at least five government approved housing counselors or agencies serving your region.
Mandatory settlement conference
If the foreclosure involves residential property and it is a 1- to 4- family owner occupied swelling or condominium, you are entitled to participate in court settlement conference with your lenders. This has to be scheduled within 60 days after the lender files proof of service of the complaint and will give you an opportunity to reach a resolution with the lender. If you fail to appear at the settlement conference, answer the foreclosure action or reach an agreement, the house can be sold at auction.
The foreclosure process
The lender files a Summons and Complaint with the court that initiates the lawsuit. If the issue is not resolved by settlement or by motion, the lawsuit proceeds to trial. Once a time and date of the sale of the property has been established, the lender is required to send you a notice of sale. Until the sale date, you still have time to sell the property yourself but you most close with the buyer before the sale date.
The Home Equity Theft protection Act
If you are planning to sell a home that is in foreclosure or default, make sure you are aware of your rights under the Home Equity Theft protection Act (HETPA). Once a contract is determined to be covered by the Act, there are some strict contractual requirements to be met, but if a buyer fails to fulfill any of the requirements made in the contract, you may be able to void or legally cancel the contract and the sale.
Distressed property consultants
Any individual, corporation or other entity that promises to stop or delay a foreclosure sale in New York, is prohibited to charge any upfront fees before completing their services and fully executing the written contract.
Foreclosure sales in New York are by public auction where the property is sold to the highest bidder. Once a sale has been made, you have no right to recovery and you will lose your home. Remember that when auction fees and attorney fees are added, if the sale price is less than the loan balance, you could still owe the lender money.https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/pdfs/publications/Homeowner_Protection.pdf