Facing foreclosure? New law could help

With more than 10,000 Washington State homes in foreclosure in the first half of 2011 and another 76,400 homeowners seriously delinquent on their mortgages, the 2011 Washington Legislature passed the Foreclosure Fairness Act. “I don’t know how it (act) has impacted local homeowners yet because it’s a relatively new law,” says Tammy Ringer of the Northeast Washington Association of REALTORS®. “But hopefully, people in our area will begin to utilize it once they learn of the available resources it provides.” HB 1362, the Foreclosure Fairness Act sponsored by Washington State Rep. Tina Orwall, was passed in the 2011 legislative session and became effective on July 22. Under the new law, if homeowners are in trouble with their mortgage on the home they occupy and face a possible foreclosure, they may have the right to meet with their lender and even demand mediation to attempt a modification of their loan terms. The Washington Association of REALTORS® has joined forces with Washington state’s Attorney General Rob McKenna, industry attorneys and HUD-approved counseling services to provide comprehensive consumer education through a video that explains consumers' rights and options under the Act.‘Foreclosed homes will have an impact on all …’ According to Ringer, there were 79 homes in the local Multiple listing service that were in foreclosure in the past 12 months. Some of the homes were located in Spokane County as well, but Ringer says the majority of foreclosed homes were located in Stevens, Pend Oreille and Ferry Counties. “This was put into play to hold the banks accountable and to give the homeowner every opportunity to keep their home. Now the banks are required to contact the homeowner and try to work on an alter¬native to foreclosure,” explained Ringer. “Under the act, the lender has consequences if they do not respond in a timely manner to the homeowner.” The video consists of three parts, which are posted on a public website at: http://WArealtor.vidmeup.com. Part I is an overview by Attorney General Rob McKenna of the opportunities the new law provides, alerting distressed homeowners to their rights and the notification process and timeline. Part II features HUD approved housing coun¬selor Marc Cote, who explains the free services of housing counselors and the option for mediation with a lender; and, in Part III, attorney and short sale negotiator Rob Dickson provides information on the short sale process as an option to avoid foreclosure for the homeowner that cannot stay in their home. Realtors’ industry attorney Annie Fitzsimmons facilitates all of the presentations. Though Ringer said it is difficult to keep track of reasons behind each individual foreclosure, she cited economic downturn in the area as a factor. “In my opinion, the foreclosures we are experiencing locally is due to the fact that people lost their jobs and were unable to make the payment,” said Ringer. “We want to encourage homeowners to use this free resource if it saves them from foreclosure. An abundance of foreclosed homes will have an impact on all of our home values.”