CBJ - January 2009 #03. Attorneys take on foreclosure crisis.

Author:By Kristina Horton Flaherty

California Bar Journal


CBJ - January 2009 #03.

Attorneys take on foreclosure crisis

California Bar Journal January 2009 Attorneys take on foreclosure crisisBy Kristina Horton FlahertyStaff WriterOne recent fall morning, nearly 80 attorneys, paralegals and housing counselors streamed into San Francisco's Practising Law Institute - another 166 arrived via the Internet - to learn how to better help desperate homeowners facing foreclosure.

More than 79,000 Californians lost their homes in the third quarter of 2008. Another 94,240 new default notices went out during the same period. And with credit tight, housing counselors overwhelmed and loan modification scams on the rise, experts say, thousands of homeowners are sinking fast.

The free, day-long "Defending Subprime Mortgage Foreclosures" training, still available online, was just one of several initiatives jointly sponsored by the State Bar to provide information and rally more volunteer assistance for those caught in the foreclosure crisis.

Other efforts include a free training on how to defend unlawful detainers (co-sponsored by Housing and Economic Rights Advocates of Oakland and others), and a new Web site - Foreclosure InfoCA.org - launched by the Public Interest Clearinghouse and the bar for homeowners and tenants, as well as attorneys interested in volunteering their help.

"There aren't enough people out there to help the borrowers," said Tara Twomey, the National Consumer Law Center attorney who conducted the foreclosure defense training. "It's a numbers problem, a sheer numbers problem, especially in areas like California."

And attorney volunteers from all areas of practice can make a difference, she says. "Does that mean every borrower can be helped? Probably not. But I do think that with some persistence, a lot of borrowers can."

That help might involve seeking a loan modification or simply developing an exit strategy - delaying an eviction or negotiating a payment from the lender to vacate the home. Freezing an interest rate for two years while the borrower's child finishes high school, for example, might be one homeowner's goal. "Not everybody needs a long-term solution," Twomey said.

The training includes an overview of the subprime mortgage market, the foreclosure process, the current crisis and responses to it, available options and how to spot...

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