“In their own words” is a series of firsthand accounts, experiences, and stories from Legal Aid Society attorneys, staff, and volunteers who provide free legal aid services to our community’s most vulnerable populations. This series is aimed at showcasing not only the impact these services have on the clients they serve, but also the profound impact these cases and clients have on them professionally and personally.
Founded in 2008, our Foreclosure Mitigation Unit (FMU) has provided homeowners, particularly those adversely affected by the housing crisis, with free advice and assistance. Staffed by attorneys, paralegals, and housing counselors, FMU provides comprehensive legal assistance, education, outreach, and counseling, to empower and assist families at risk of losing their homes. The project targets households with low and moderate incomes, and has expanded its service areas to Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernardino due to assistance insufficiencies in these counties. For many of these at-risk households, there are few options and little resources to turn to for help.
FMU Certified Housing Counselors work with the clients to create a needs-based action plan which includes providing financial advice and financial assessment of the homeowner’s ability to afford a house. One of our Housing Counselors shares an unlikely outcome in a case that made her believe that miracles can indeed happen:
My client, John,* was facing foreclosure with his loan servicer. John lived in Brea, CA with his young children, and he loved his home. In his eyes it was perfect; it was close to work, it had the best school district, and it was a safe area for his family.
John was approximately 12 payments behind when he came to the Legal Aid Society of Orange County (LASOC). He called me on a Thursday, and we scheduled an appointment for him to come in the very next day as the foreclosure sale was scheduled for that Monday. I advised John that all I can do was try my best to contact his loan servicer and request a postponement; however, with such short notice it would be a miracle if this happened.
John had been working with his loan servicer to execute a loan modification, but was not successful. I contacted John’s loan servicer on Friday and they advised me that they continued to ask John for a form because he was not completing it properly. However, the loan servicer never disclosed this to John; they only kept asking for the same paper over and over again with no specifications as to what they needed added or corrected.
I completed the form and sent it to the loan servicer, but they said it was too late. With a heavy heart, I began to prepare John’s mindset for potentially losing his home by Monday. He told me his children would be devastated if they had to move. I advised him that come Monday, we would know if the home sold or not and then we would take it from there; together.
Monday came and I contacted the loan servicer to find the home sold. When I called John, he was somber on the phone. I felt like I couldn’t give up on him or his family. Not yet. So I decided to call the company who owned his loan to advocate on John’s behalf.
I pleaded with the company and told them I felt John’s situation was a wrongful foreclosure as John’s loan servicer did not provide him with details on how to correct his form. I requested they reconsider the sale and grant John a loan modification. After one harrowing week of waiting, I finally got a response: they agreed with me! They decided to put a brief stop to the process, and another week later, they agreed to a rescission of the loan, which put the home back in John’s name.
John was granted a Home Affordable Modification Program loan modification, which reduced his payments to approximately $500 a month. I’m happy to share that as of today, John and his family are still living in their home.
This case is particularly special to me because it shows that miracles can indeed happen.
*Name has been changed to protect identity