The new Oregon Foreclosure Avoidance Program (OFAP) officially launched on August 5, 2013. The OFAP is the creation of Senate Bill 558, which overhauled the existing Foreclosure Avoidance Mediation Program (FAMP) in effect since July of 2012. Prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 558, mediation was not required if a lender filed a judicial foreclosure, a gaping loophole that effectively rendered the program meaningless. Why? Because lenders simply stopped using nonjudicial foreclosures (the most common and preferred method of foreclosing on property in Oregon for the past 50+ years) and simply resorted to judicial foreclosures instead. As a result, less than two dozen mediations convened in the past year; hardly the intent that the Oregon legislature intended. Senate Bill 558 changes all this by eliminating the judicial foreclosure loophole and greatly streamlining the mediation process.
Under the new mediation program, before a lender can foreclose on a home – whether through a judicial (circuit court action) or nonjudicial (trustee sale) process – it must first offer a face-to-face meeting (resolution conference) with the homeowner in an attempt to avoid foreclosure when the instrument securing the loan is a residential trust deed. Homeowners at risk of foreclosure may also request a meeting. Homeowners are at risk when they are more than 30 days in default on their loan payment or when a government-approved housing counselor believes the homeowners have a qualifying financial hardship.
This new program will give most homeowners an opportunity to meet face-to-face with an agent of the lender who will have complete authority to negotiate and commit to a foreclosure avoidance measure. (Lenders who filed less than 175 foreclosures in the past year are exempt from the program). To initiate the process, homeowners must first meet with an approved housing counselor. Housing counselors will not only help homeowners initiate the process, they will also help homeowners evaluate their options and put together the best possible proposal for a foreclosure avoidance measure. There is no charge to the homeowner for working with an approved housing counselor. The homeowners must then pay a $175.00 fee (a fee reduction waiver is available for households making 200% or less of the federal poverty level), submit the documents required by the lender and personally attend the resolution conference.
The resolution conference will be an informal meeting conducted by a mediator, who is a neutral person trained in basic foreclosure issues. The homeowner can bring an attorney, a housing counselor, or both to the meeting. The lender must send an agent in person. If that person does not have complete authority, the lender must have a person with authority available by telephone. If the parties reach an agreement, the agreement will be reduced to writing and signed by both parties before the conference concludes.
For more information about the new mediation program, visit the official program website at www.foreclosuremediationor.org or our dedicated foreclosure defense website at garlandgriffiths.com.
For a list of approved housing counselors, visit www.oregonhomeownersupport.gov
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