Facing foreclosure is stressful, legally complex, and a danger to your credit. If you have missed mortgage payments or your lender has filed a Notice of Default (NOD), you might feel like there is nothing you can do to prevent the loss of your home. But you are not without hope. In Illinois, there are legal avenues an experienced foreclosure lawyer can use to help you save your home.
Negotiating with the lender, using government relief avenues, and taking the lender to court are just some of the methods the lawyer can use to help you. If you have received or expect to receive a foreclosure notice, you should immediately contact an attorney. Let’s look at just a few ways an attorney can help you save your home and protect your credit.
Negotiate with the Lender to Resume Payments
If you can pay the money you owe to the lender due to missed mortgage payments, now or shortly, you may be able to save your home. Your mortgage is a loan. A bank is usually the lender of the mortgage. Foreclosure is the lender’s process for taking a homeowner’s property because the homeowner failed to make agreed-upon payments to pay back their loan. The lender forecloses to take the property and sell it.
The sale of the foreclosed property is the typical way the lender gets its money back. But suppose you can demonstrate your ability to pay the lender the money you owe and stay current with future payments. In this case, your lawyer may be able to negotiate with the lender to stop your foreclosure. There are a couple of ways to do this.
Pay the Amount Past Due in Full Now
Your attorney can call your lender and determine precisely how much you owe the lender. If you can pay that full amount, the attorney will contact your lender immediately. They will make an offer for you to pay the full amount in arrears (the payment amount you are behind) and your next mortgage payment due in a timely manner. In return, they will ask that the lender end the foreclosure process.
For instance, if the amount in arrears is $3,000 on a mortgage payment of $1,000 per month, you must be able to fully pay the lender $4,000 (the $3,000 past due and the next due mortgage payment of $1,000) immediately. It would be best if you considered the impact this may have on other bills before your lawyer makes this offer to the lender. Also, be sure that you are prepared to continue and pay the standard monthly mortgage from now on.
Get on a Payment Plan
Another option is to catch up on the arrears over time. Your lawyer can work with you to determine what amount you can pay beyond your standard mortgage amount. They can then negotiate with the bank for you to pay this additional amount until you catch up on your past due amount.
Let’s say you are behind $1,600 on a mortgage of $800 a month. You advise your attorney that you are now in a position to pay your full monthly mortgage of $800 a month, plus another $400 each month. The lawyer could negotiate a $1,200-a-month payment for four months. Under this agreement, you will be caught up on your mortgage at the end of four months and no longer at risk of foreclosure.
If you are in a position to pay off your arrears and continue making your current payments, you could be able to avoid foreclosure. Remember, the lender wants their money. Hiring an attorney who can show the lender a reasonable way to receive the money they are due is usually the fastest and easiest way to stop a foreclosure.
Request A Loan Modification
If you have had an unexpected change in financial circumstances, a loan modification may be your best option. In this situation, your attorney will contact the lender and explain your circumstances and how they impacted your ability to make timely mortgage payments. Standard hardships lenders may consider, which often affect homeownership and finances, include:
- A recently contested divorce proceeding;
- An accident that caused significant injury or disability;
- Income decline due to an unexpected job loss;
- A salary reduction at a long-term current job or new job;
- Being the victim of fraud or another financial crime;
- A national crisis, such as a pandemic;
- Child support and custody issues; or
- A sudden death in the family.
Lawyers will gather facts and proof of the incident(s) that relate to your financial change. They will then ask the lender for your loan to be modified (lower payment for a time, refinance to a longer mortgage term, or another option that will reduce your payments).
They may also ask the lender to forgive the past due amount or add it on to the end of the mortgage. With either approach, you will need to show that you now have a source of income and can make the agreed-upon new payments.
A lender’s automated email and phone banks do not analyze or recognize hardships. However, specific workers for the companies can do so, especially if you have had a strong payment history up until this time. Your attorney will know to whom and how to make the case for a hardship loan modification.
Seek Special Relief: CARES Act And COVID-19
Your local, state, or federal government may issue a mandate that will protect you from foreclosure in rare circumstances. Times of a nationwide recession, health crisis, or natural disaster may initiate laws to help homeowners. The relief may come in the form of:
- Forgiveness of missed payments;
- Forbearance (suspension) of payments; or
- A ban on foreclosures for a period of time.
During the pandemic’s national health crisis (COVID-19), the United States government created the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. One purpose of the act was to help homeowners keep their homes during the pandemic’s health and financial crisis. The CARES Act:
- Gave a minimum of a 60-day suspension of foreclosures against homeowners;
- Stopped lenders from taking any legal action that could lead foreclosure; and
- Prohibited lenders from finalizing existing foreclosure-related evictions.
There were specific criteria to receive CARES assistance. For instance, a homeowner’s mortgage must be federally held to qualify. You can read more about CARES by reviewing the CARES Act Fact Sheet and information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
If you were facing foreclosure before the CARES Act, it’s possible that laws will continue to protect you from foreclosure for the foreseeable future. Also, the state of Illinois strongly encouraged financial institutions to pause payments for individuals during this public health emergency.
Attorneys who focus on foreclosure law are aware of the CARES Act and other government relief programs. When you meet to address your foreclosure issue, your lawyer will know if there are current avenues of government programs or rules that will assist you, and use those avenues to stop foreclosure.
Address Payments Missed By Mistake
In some circumstances, an error is the cause of a foreclosure attempt. If you believed in good faith that you were making your mortgage payments but the lender did not receive them, your lawyer may be able to stop your foreclosure. A change in foreclosure status could occur if your payment did not reach your lender because:
- Your lender sold your loan, and you were paying the wrong lender;
- You made an error with your loan auto payment set up in your online banking;
- There was a change with your bank account, and you forgot to notify your lender’s payment system; or
- You own more than one home, and you sent checks with the wrong account number/address for the payments.
Your attorney can gather the evidence of the error and appeal to the bank for time for you to correct the issues. The lawyer may need to show that you made an effort to pay and reached out to fix the missed payments soon after noticing the error. The attorney can advocate for the lender to accept your past due amounts and stop the foreclosure process, based on the error.
Take the Case to Chicago Courts
A court action against the lender to stop foreclosure is the last effort most attorneys will suggest you take. Court action can be a time-consuming and expensive process, and there is never a guarantee of the outcome. If you involve court action in fighting foreclosure, it is usually through bankruptcy court or filing a claim of equity.
If your financial circumstances warrant bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court may address your foreclosure. If the deed of trust has not been prepared and recorded, there is a potential that the judge can find that the sale is not final and is in fact void at the time of the bankruptcy filing. Foreclosure attorneys often also handle bankruptcy cases or work closely with attorneys who will address the bankruptcy court on your behalf.
Equity in the legal sense is fairness. You can seek to stop foreclosure based on a lawsuit of equity against the lender. Your attorney would argue all the facts and circumstances of your situation and ask a court to find that foreclosure is simply not fair. If the lender has sought and obtained a decree of foreclosure, courts may not consider an equity case. But if not, an equity suit is an option, but it is an uphill battle and therefore not often pursued.
While it is important to have an experienced attorney handle all actions to stop a foreclosure, you should absolutely have an attorney handle any court proceedings. Lenders will always have attorneys for court proceedings; you should have one as well.
Turn the House over to the Lender
After meeting with your attorney and discussing all options, you may choose not to fight the foreclosure. In that case, the lawyer can help you turn your home over to the lender. They will negotiate a time frame for you to leave the home and for the lender take control of it.
The lawyer will negotiate with the lender to protect your credit and protect you from paying any additional amount to the lender. This action, usually called a deed in lieu of foreclosure, allows you to transfer your property to your lender voluntarily. Protect yourself in this process by not signing over the deed to your property to any individual or organization unless working with an attorney.
Your First Move: Find the Right Foreclosure Attorney
If you are behind on your mortgage payments and a foreclosure is looming, you might still be able to save your home. Seek legal advice as soon as possible. Foreclosure is a specialized area of law. Consult a Chicago foreclosure defense attorney today who is experienced and has a reputation as a strong negotiator. Knowledgeable attorneys use strategic foreclosure defenses to keep clients in their homes or preserve their credit.
You also should beware that there are many con artists and scams that promise to save a person’s home or lower their mortgage debt or payments. You put your credit, your identity, and your home at risk when you engage with them. Hire a qualified, reputable lawyer to protect your rights and fight for your home or negotiate the best circumstances to end the loan.
Vantage Group Legal Services: Providing the Best Chicago Foreclosure Defense Attorneys
Vantage Group Legal Services is based in Chicago. Our primary focus is foreclosure defense. We provide affordable legal representation, matching you with a network attorney who is skilled in foreclosure defense. Vantage Group Legal Services is a unique company in that we are a group legal services company, not a law firm. Our business works off a subscription model. A client signs up for a monthly fee, and in exchange, they are assigned one of our experienced network attorneys. You will have a lawyer who is the perfect fit for you, typically within 24 hours of deciding to have us help you. The network attorney handles all aspects of your case for the duration of your time with Vantage Group Legal Services. You also will have secondary support supplied by Vantage Group’s staff. Contact us for a free consultation where we can listen to your situation and let you know how Vantage Group Legal Services can help you.