Florida lawyers are now available to assist homeowners facing foreclosure.
Florida Attorneys Saving Homes is a collaborative effort of The Florida Bar, The Florida Bar Foundation, Florida Legal Services, and the Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section designed to provide pro bono assistance to distressed homeowers.
As of June, an estimated 77,000 Floridians were in foreclosure and a recent report indicated that 11.6 percent of Florida property owners were more than 30 days past due on a mortgage payment or in foreclosure, suggesting more trouble ahead, said Kent Spuhler, executive director of Florida Legal Services, Inc.
In response Florida Attorneys Saving Homes has launch a toll-free hotline — (866) 607-2187 — to take calls weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from those who fear they may soon be unable to make their mortgage payments or have already missed payments.
“We believe this is the first project of its kind that pairs homeowners with volunteer attorneys before the foreclosure is started in an effort to hold back the flood of foreclosures,” Spuhler said.
Bar staff will collect information from the callers and Florida Legal Services will screen the calls and forward to the RPPTL volunteers only those homeowners who appear “ripe” for a workout with their loan, according to Terry Hill, director of the Bar’s Programs Division.
The pro bono lawyers will in turn negotiate with the lenders on behalf of the homeowner with the hope of creating a relationship where the lender and the homeowner can together create a loan that allows the homeowner to remain in the home, thus avoiding foreclosure.
“The concept for the project began with the announcement from the banking industry of their HOPE NOW and Project Lifeline Projects,” Spuhler said. “We felt homeowners having trouble with their mortgage would have better success negotiating with their lender if they had the assistance of an attorney.”
Several months ago, Florida CFO Alex Sink approached The Florida Bar Board of Governors and asked that the Bar try to help Floridians facing foreclosure, said Sandra Fascell Diamond, chair of the Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section.
“The Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section is pleased to have the opportunity to assist with the coordination of the efforts of volunteer attorneys in this task,” Diamond said. “We hope to help individual owners and their families find a way to keep their homes.”
Lawyers interested in volunteering for the effort can visit http://www.floridaprobono.org for more information.