I graduated from law school in 2010 and previously worked as a staff attorney for a non-profit organization in the Boston area, where I assisted homeowners with foreclosure defense. Last fall, I launched my own practice and continue to focus in foreclosure defense, as well as landlord/tenant law and property/land use. My office is located in Somerville, but I have cases all over Massachusetts. I am also licensed to practice law in New York and Vermont.
The best way to stop a foreclosure is to prevent one from happening in the first place. Generally, most homeowners can avoid foreclosure by applying for a loan modification, where the lender restructures the loan to make the payments more affordable. Both federal and state law often require lenders to consider homeowners for a loan modification prior to foreclosure?something that struggling homeowners should take advantage of.
Even if a homeowner has already been foreclosed, a homeowner can still challenge a foreclosure after it occurred through a civil action lawsuit or as a defense when the lender or third-party purchaser of the home attempts to evict the homeowner.
First, a homeowner needs to keep a paper trail of all of their correspondence with a lender, especially when applying for a loan modification. Lenders routinely lose homeowner's loan modification paperwork and without proof that this information was sent to the lender, the homeowner has a tougher time in making their case that they are entitled to a modification.
If a lender is not complying with the law or the homeowner is not succeeding in working out a solution to their problem, the homeowner should contact an attorney. I have seen that getting an attorney involved as early as possible in the process can make a big difference in saving a home.
Most homeowners are not aware that the foreclosure process takes a long time; often two-three years after the homeowner defaults on the loan. A homeowner does not need to leave their home until the lender (or party who purchases the home at a foreclosure sale) has brought an eviction ("summary process") case against them. Homeowners need to be proactive about avoiding foreclosure, but should know that they will not need to immediately leave their home once the foreclosure process begins.
Foreclosure law primarily comes from state law. Massachusetts is a non-judicial foreclosure state, which means that a lender does not need to go to court to foreclose. Rather, the lender does a foreclosure by sending the homeowner a series of required notices and publishing a foreclosure sale notice in a local newspaper. These steps must be done in a manner of strict compliance, and any errors in this process can be grounds for challenging the foreclosure.
Additionally, Massachusetts recently passed a new anti-foreclosure law designed to help struggling homeowners. This law requires many lenders to consider homeowners for a loan modification prior to foreclosure; something that had only been required before under federal law. This new law provides relief that can help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
The biggest regrets I see with foreclosure defense are 1) waiting too long to address the problem and 2) homeowners not keeping records of correspondence with their lenders. While the foreclosure process takes a while, waiting too long to deal with the problem is a huge mistake. It becomes harder to fight a foreclosure as more time passes by (but not impossible; homeowners should still consult an attorney at any stage of foreclosure if they want to save their home).
Homeowners without paperwork of their correspondence to their lender have a hard time showing that they did their part in avoiding foreclosure. Without such documentation, it becomes the lender's word against the homeowner, which makes for a tougher case. Creating a paper trail of a homeowner's correspondence with the lender makes for a much stronger case if the matter needs to go to court.
I can best be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. My website is www.sherwinlawfirm.com.
I also have a blog, The Massachusetts Foreclosure Law Blog, which has resources for homeowners: www.maforeclosurelawblog.com.
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