Bankruptcy

Hotline to help North Carolinians facing foreclosure

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HOPE hotline will connect callers with local non-profits to help people keep their homes

Raleigh –  Help for North Carolinians who are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure is now just a telephone call away, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the Office of the Commissioner of Banks announced today.

“It’s tragic when families lose their homes, especially when it could be prevented,” Cooper said.  “One toll-free call could give them the advice they need to stop foreclosure.”

North Carolinians can call the HOPE Hotline toll-free at 888-995-HOPE 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive free counseling on options to avoid foreclosure.  The hotline will connect callers with non-profit housing and credit counselors in their local community who can advise them about options such as modifying their loan, selling or refinancing their home or setting up a repayment plan with their lender.

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“Homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage need to know there are resources available to help them avoid foreclosure.  Call the NC HOPE Hotline and you may be able to save your home,” said Deputy Commissioner of Banks Mark Pearce.

While North Carolina has not experienced the wave of foreclosures seen in many other states due to our strong laws against unfair loans, foreclosures are on the rise in the state.  Foreclosure starts were up 9.4 percent in North Carolina in 2007 and are expected to increase by 10 to 20 percent in 2008, according to the Commissioner of Banks’ office.

According to research by Freddie Mac, more than half of all homeowners who experience foreclosure never contact their mortgage company to try to avoid unnecessary foreclosure.  Mortgage servicers and lenders have a strong incentive to help homeowners avoid foreclosure because they stand to lose $40,000 to $50,000 in net value when a typical home loan is foreclosed.  Finding a solution to foreclosure can be in the best interest of both the homeowner and the lender.

Cooper and the Commissioner of Banks have teamed up to provide $300,000 in seed money to reimburse counselors who are able to help prevent unnecessary foreclosures for North Carolinians who call the hotline, with more reimbursement going to counselors who are able to help homeowners keep their homes.  Additional funding from Congress and the General Assembly could expand access to local counselors through the hotline.

Local non-profits will also be able to connect hotline callers with other resources as needed, such as referrals for legal help when there is evidence that the homeowner may have been the victim of predatory or abusive lending practices.   The Attorney General’s Office will be notified when there is a pattern of lending abuses and can take action to enforce North Carolina’s strong laws against predatory lending. 

Counselors can also help connect homeowners who qualify with Federal Housing Administration secure loans.  In some cases, non-profits may be able to purchase a home before it is foreclosed upon and then lease it back to the homeowner, applying their lease payments to the purchase of the home.

The national Hope Hotline is a joint project between NeighborWorks America, a non-profit organization chartered by Congress, and the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Minnesota.  The Commissioner of Banks and Attorney General Cooper are working together to select and support more than 20 high-quality counseling agencies across the state to accept referrals from the national Hope Hotline.  These local counselors will be able to provide assistance not currently available through the national hotline.

“Foreclosures are hurting families across our state and damaging our neighborhoods and communities,” said Cooper.  “It’s in all of our interest to help homeowners find a way out of foreclosure when possible.”

More information about the hotline and the organizations involved is available at www.ncforeclosurehelp.org.

Bankruptcy Lists – Fair or Foul?

Well, our beloved editors over at the Gastonia Gazette must have really run out of news to publish.

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On Friday, the Gazette began publishing bankruptcy filings as listed by the court system. What once was a required public notice posting through classified ad listing of the legal filing, now has been distilled to the basics: name, address, type of filing, and case number.

In the interest of public service, the Gazette allocated in-house resources to distill the information to the “gentle” reading public. In the Gazette’s eyes, why subject readers to the mind-numbing review of legalese that accompany the court documents? Let’s get down to the chase – just the facts: name, address, type of filing, and case number.

The outlash was immediate and very negative from the readers, a sample:

“I have been fortunate that I have not had to file bankruptcy, but I very much resent the fact that any person or family that has fallen on hard times must be exposed to further embarrassment. Does the Gazette not realize that a lot of these folks may have worked hard all their lives, lost their job due to textiles closing or possibly a family member taking ill? As a paralegal I can tell you that everyone has problems, but for the Gazette to zero in on this is sickening. Surely the paper can find a more note worthy way to fill up its extra space. I for one did not read those names listed and I encourage others not too. Shame on the Gazette for their lack of compassion” – Maryann

“I realize that this information IS public record, but how about using a little bit of good judgement here?” – Disappointed

“At best this is dumb, at worst it is a horrific attempt by the Gazette to embarrass folks already hit by heartache. You telling me news is so slow in Gastonia today that we need to publicly humiliate these folks? Really, this is in poor taste guys.” – Gouranga

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We agree with the majority on this one – keep the listing where it is required. There is no need to distill the public record further in this type of circumstance. if they wish to pursue these types of records, why not fully investigate the failure of certain businesses or even industries? Usually, the well-connected Gazette/Chamber link glosses over business closings, and then only if they impact 50 or more people. There are hundreds of small businesses established every year, and there are hundreds of failures. 

The Chamber makes a big deal out of groundbreakings, ribbon-cuttings, and position announcements. How about mentoring, monitoring, and rewarding the small privately owned businesses, rather than focusing on a family’s failure or circumstances which are sometimes beyond their own control.

The Consumer Credit Counseling program of Family Service, Inc, has a tremendous process to help families overcome mounting debt-related issues. One or twice a year the Gazette does an article about this critical community nonprofit. The bully pulpit opportunity that the Gazette wields in this case could be used for much more good than to embarass people in this manner.

Gazette, instead of the full-page ads touting your “community service” and “sponsorships”, why not do more to encourage the financial education and mentoring that is needed to gain true freedom. The very freedom that is expressed as your mission.