Knowledge is Power: Educating Yourself about Foreclosure, Scams, and Your Rights

Angeline Thomas is our guest blogger today. She is the Staff Attorney who oversees the Foreclosure Mediation and Outreach Project—a WA-based foreclosure prevention program based at Seattle University School of Law designed to connect homeowners to reputable resources through outreach and education.

No doubt, the thought of foreclosure is scary, confusing, and often overwhelming. In fact, many hard-working homeowners are willing to slap down thousands of dollars to anyone offering to save their home. Because most people don’t know all their legal options and/or their legal rights, they are willing to trust almost anyone willing to offer help. If this is you or someone you know–stop! Don’t panic and, please, don’t do anything else until you have read this blog post.

When we do outreach, we get clients inquiring about a variety of legal issues. Questions include:

  1. I’ve been working with the bank on my own to get a loan modification, but I keep getting denied. What are my options?
  2. I have a sale date, how can I stop the foreclosure?
  3. Will the lender(s) come after me for a deficiency judgment after my home is sold?
  4. Do I have to move out before the foreclosure sale date?
  5. My lender has engaged in predatory lending, can I sue my lender?
  6. Do I have any other options in lieu of foreclosure?
  7. I received a solicitation in the mail (or call) from a law firm offering to sue my lender to “save my house”–should I use their services?

The stories behind the questions are all heart-breaking to hear–as one hears the fear, panic and desperation in the client’s voice. Our goal is to be the calm to their emotional storm–with the underlying goal to pave the way to empowering clients to make informed decisions regarding the distressed property. Our mantra is “knowledge is power.”

If you need more information, one great way to start educating yourself is learning about the foreclosure process in WA. My project put together a short 4 minute video on the non-judicial foreclosure process in WA State. You can watch the video on YouTube. The next thing you should do is contact a housing counselor or an attorney to look over your case. They can quickly assess what options you may have, answer questions like the ones listed above about your unique circumstances, represent you in negotiations with your bank, evaluate whether you’ve been scammed and determine what can be done.

You may also want to look at SPL resources The Foreclosure Survival Guide and The Essential Credit Repair Handbook. For up-to-date information, check out these Foreclosure Fairness Act brochures (in nine languages), and the Department of Commerce’s Foreclosure Fairness Program. Housing counselors’ services are free and you can find one nearby by calling the WA Homeownership Resource Center at 1-877-894-HOME (4663). Low- to moderate-income homeowners may also be eligible for free legal help from the statewide civil legal aid toll-free hotline. Call 1-800-606-4819.

This post is part of The Seattle Public Library’s celebration of Money Smart Week—check out the many programs and resources at a branch near you!

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