Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Foreclosure Prevention Network Offers Help to Chicagoland Homeowners

We recently explained that the Chicago metro area experienced a 43% jump in foreclosure filings this February, a trend which our Oak Park and RiverForest mortgage foreclosurelawyers know is a cause for concern for many Chicagoland families.  However, Illinois has created a new resource to help struggling homeowners called the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network.  The Illinois Housing Development Authority is overseeing the new program.  The Network seeks to make it easier for Illinois homeowners to take advantage of and navigate the full range of mortgage assistance programs available to them, including approximately $2 billion in funding to help with mortgage modifications and mortgage payments, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

One of the major goals of the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network is to offer homeowners a “one-stop shop approach” so that Chicagoland residents do not waste valuable time and resources soliciting assistance through the wrong programs.  Unfortunately, our Oak Parkforeclosure attorneys know it is not uncommon for homeowners to spend considerable time pursuing the wrong program only to find out they are not eligible for a certain program, when they could potentially qualify for another.  Thus, the Network is designed to connect homeowners to various state and nonprofit agencies as well as federal resources, including financial help available from the Illinois Hardest Hit Fund Program.  The Hardest Hit program provides up to $25,000 in mortgage assistance to qualified homeowners having trouble making mortgage payments due to unemployment or underemployment.  The Network also connects homeowners to a myriad of other types of aid, including mortgage modification programs, one-on-one housing counseling, unemployment assistance, and fraud prevention help.

The high number of Illinois foreclosures has been a problem for years.  According to Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) Executive director Mary Kenney, there were more than 103,000 foreclosure filings in our state last year.  That averages out to over 8,500 foreclosures per month.

Hopefully, the coordination between multiple federal agencies and organizations across the state will provide homeowners with a better understanding of the avenues of assistance available to them under Illinois foreclosure law so they can weigh the pros and cons of every path.  Many families may believe they are not eligible for certain programs, but it is certainly worth finding out rather than missing an important opportunity.  Others may think there are no more funds available because so many homeowners are currently struggling.  For example, $445 million in federal funding was allotted to the Illinois Hardest Hit program.  Yet, according to IHDA Executive director Mary Kenney, only about $14 million of that funding has been committed to approximately 1,700 families, which means many more families can still be helped.

Additionally, the eligibility requirements for federal mortgage modification programs have been expanded making it possible for more Illinois homeowners to qualify for assistance.

Homeowners can access the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network by visiting or by calling toll free (855) 533-7411.

Those of us working in Oak Park or River Forest foreclosure understand that the process of foreclosure may seem overwhelming at times.  There is no shame in asking for help.  Our experienced attorneys are well versed in Illinois foreclosure law and will do our best to provide you with the assistance you need to modify your loan, protect your home from foreclosure, or pursue other avenues, if that is your wish.  If your home is in danger of foreclosure, please consider contacting the Emerson Law Firm for a confidential consultation today.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Increase in Foreclosure Filings in Illinois

Foreclosures have been in the headlines for years now, but there is a new foreclosure trend in Chicago that is currently catching the attention of Illinois foreclosure lawyersAccording to WBEZ91.5, February 2012 foreclosure filings in the Chicago metro area have seen a 43 percent jump from the foreclosure filings in February 2011.  This type of increase in foreclosure filings is not limited to just the Chicago metro area.  According to the company RealtyTrac which maintains a database of foreclosures, auction, and bank owned homes, the number of foreclosure auctions in February 2012 has more than doubled in the state of Illinois.

Our Oak Park foreclosure attorneys understand that the findings are bad news for many local families.   Some observers are claiming that the jump indicates that banks are finally getting through their backlog and the end of initial effects of the mortgage crisis may be ending sooner than expected.  Unfortunately it is likely that home prices will continue to decrease due to this influx in foreclosure filings in the near future.  However, according to Geoff Smith, head of the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, the decrease in home value will only continue for six months to a year.

Where did this influx come from?  As we discussed often on the blog, on February 9, 2012 an unprecedented agreement between the federal government and 49 state attorneys general and America’s five largest mortgage servicers was made.  According to the Department of Justice, the agreement requires the Bank of America Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Company, Citigroup Inc., and Ally Financial Inc. (formerly GMAC) to commit $25 billion to resolve violations of state and federal law in connection with mortgage loan servicing.  The main objectives of the agreement are to provide financial relief to homeowners and establish homeowner protections for the future.  This agreement is the largest federal-state civil settlement ever obtained.

How can this historic agreement affect you?  Under the agreement it may be possible to have benefits such as reduced principals and loan refinancing for borrowers who are underwater.  A Cook County foreclosure lawyer can help you determine if these benefits are available in your case. 

The agreement also requires mortgage servicers to significantly reform how they service mortgage loans.  For example, safeguards must be implemented to avoid abuses like Robo-signing and improper documentation.  These new requirements are all in line with President Obama’s Homeowners Bill of Rights. The mortgage servicers are required to meet their obligations within three years, with incentives if reached within the first year.  These incentives are the likely reason for the sharp increase in mortgage servicers’ action this past February. 

If you are facing foreclosure it is important to remember that you may have many legal options in front of you.  In our area it is vital to contact a knowledgeable Oak Park or River Forest foreclosure attorney at Emerson Law Firm to review the options with you in a confidential consultation.

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Homeowners Who Claim They Never Missed a Payment Challenge Mortgage Foreclosure 

(Photo Courtesy of Panoramas)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Federal Agency Finds that 1 in 5 Families are Struggling with Medical Debt

A recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows 1 in 5 Americans say their families are having trouble paying their medical bills.  Even more concerning, 1 in 10 Americans say their families are unable to pay anything toward their medical debt.  Such dismal statistics are indicative of a larger problem.  Americans are overburdened with debt and homes that are no longer worth what they once were.  Though the U.S. created more than 200,000 jobs in February, which is a great start, many Chicagoland residents and citizens across the country are still searching for long-term employment.  As our Oak Park and River Forest mortgage foreclosure lawyers know, many families in the Chicago area continue to struggle.  

The CDC’s survey is the first time the government agency has looked at this issue in such a comprehensive way, reports The Washington Post.  The agency surveyed 52,000 people from January through June of last year.  People from low-income backgrounds reportedly struggled the most.  They were three times more likely to have difficulty paying their medical bills.  Additionally, the survey finds that 1 in 4 families are paying their medical bills late, which can damage credit scores and make it more difficult for families to refinance or take out loans in the future.

One important side effect of high medical debt—and of debt in general—is that it jeopardizes the economic security of Chicagoland families.  Oak Park or River Forest homeowners with high medical debt may find it more difficult to keep current on their mortgages.  In this tough economy, many Cook County families have found themselves amidst a perfect storm of an underwater mortgage, high medical or credit card debt, and unemployment or underemployment.  An increasing number of Chicago residents are also burdened with very high educational debt with few prospects of decent employment. 

It’s important to remember that many types of debt are dischargeable through bankruptcy.  Our firm frequently handles Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.  Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to consolidate student loans, protect loan co-signers, or eliminate credit card debt.  You may want to consider filing for bankruptcy if you have faced a serious financial setback, such as divorce, an injury or illness resulting in high medical bills, or job loss or a reduction in pay.  Filing for bankruptcy can help repair your credit, which can help you regain control of your finances.  But remember that not all debt is dischargeable through bankruptcy, so it is important to consult with an Oak Park bankruptcy attorney to determine if you are eligible. 

Our Cook County bankruptcy lawyers know that filing for bankruptcy is a difficult decision.  It can be a complicated and seemingly overwhelming process, but your situation may not be as hopeless as it seems.  There are many legal options available to you, and speaking with a qualified professional typically can help alleviate some of your anxiety or concerns.  If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy, please consider contacting our Oak Park office for a confidential bankruptcy consultation.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

National Foreclosure Settlement to be Finalized

Our Oak Park foreclosure attorneys are pleased to see that the $25 billion national foreclosure settlement that was reached last month should was expected to be officially filed in federal court sometime last Friday or early his week.  The settlement between several major United States banks and state and federal governments was announced in February. It is the result of a suit filed by attorneys general from every state and the federal government.  Forty nine  states agreed to the settlement, as did the federal government.  Although the settlement was reached and announced about a month ago, filing it in federal court will make it official and legally binding on all involved parties. 

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), told reporters, “The hardest work is ahead of us.”  States will now have to begin the difficult task of figuring out how best to allocate the funds received in the settlement among the many people who have lost homes or who are close to losing their homes as a result of the severely depressed housing market.   In addition to the $25 billion in funding, the banks involved in the settlement will provide mortgage assistance programs and refinancing to help more people be able to save their homes from foreclosure. 

Naturally, as Cook County foreclosure attorneys, we are most concerned with how the national settlement, once it is finalized and entered into the court's records, will benefit residents of Illinois and especially those in our local communities.  The Chicago Tribune reports that the settlement is expected to be able to help about 60,000 former and current homeowners across the state of Illinois, and this number does not take into account the $10 billion that will be applied to mortgages all across the country in order to reduce the amount owed and help people get back on track.  Sadly, the problem that has led to foreclosure for many families is the inability to get out from under their mortgages because they owe more to the bank than their home is actually worth.  Therefore, even if they would be fortunate enough to find a buyer for their houses in this difficult economy, they would not be able to fully pay off the mortgage loan.  This often results in them falling further and further behind on their payments and feeling as though there is no way out except for foreclosure.

However, there are usually other methods that can be employed if homeowners in our area talk to a foreclosure defense attorney who is experienced working with mortgages and foreclosures before it is too late.  Now, with the implementation of the settlement and the allocation of funds getting started, homeowners will have even more possible options to help them save their homes, as well as their credit.  Over 3,000 Illinois homeowners have already started investigating how they might benefit from the settlement.  Our attorneys can assist you in determining whether you are qualified to receive help with your own mortgage.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Homeowners Stand Up To Foreclosure Attempts By Demanding That Banks Prove They Still Own Their Notes

More and more homeowners are challenging their foreclosures, including forcing banks that have forged or lost important mortgage paperwork to prove their authority to foreclose.  Our Oak Park foreclosure defense lawyers applaud such efforts and encourage every homeowner to seriously consider all of his or her legal options.  We understand that your home is an investment worth protecting. 

According to a recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal, many foreclosed homeowners are now demanding that banks prove they still hold their notes.  This comes in the wake of a $25 million settlement last month between several major U.S. banks and the federal government, as well as 49 state attorneys general.  The banks—including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Ally Financial (formerly GMAC), Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase—agreed to pay that amount to settle allegations that bank employees engaged in robo-signing involving thousands of documents.  The instances of robo-signing typically involved low-level employees faking signatures on mortgage documents, backdating documents, and “re-creating” documents.  With their records in terrible disarray, it is difficult for some banks to prove their authority to foreclose.  Many defrauded homeowners merely have made a simple demand to their banks: prove you still own the mortgage.
At the Emerson Law Firm, we know it is more important than ever for homeowners to fight back against Illinois mortgage foreclosure.  Although the recent settlements may appear to be very large, for such gigantic companies the settlement amounts are a drop in the bucket.  Now that they have settled many of the allegations against them and have been bailed out by the taxpayers, big banks can carry on business as usual.  While many defrauded homeowners probably will lose their homes, forcing them to uproot their lives and families as well as damaging their financial security, these banks likely will be able to continue on with little real detriment, as well as the prospect of making significant future profits.

As those of us working in Oak Park and River Forest mortgage foreclosure have seen, the courts are increasingly taking the side of homeowners when they stand up to banks.  When lenders were unable to produce the legal paperwork tracking their loans, the courts recently have supported the claims of homeowners.  After all, it is the bank’s burden to prove that a homeowner has defaulted.

We know that Chicagoland residents have every right to defend their property.  The high number of irregularities in mortgage paperwork and outright fraud serve as a warning that Illinois homeowners should consider contesting their bank’s actions. 

Some may suggest that foreclosed homeowners are trying to get a “free house,” but this simply is not true.  Banks and mortgage companies absolutely are responsible for maintaining their mortgage documents and bear the burden of proving they have the right to foreclose on a house.  The big banks and other lenders have already caused enough damage to our economy and sense of security.  If you believe your bank or mortgage company engaged in robo-signing or otherwise acted fraudulently, please think about contacting a qualified legal professional today. 

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