If your home is in foreclosure, chances are it has been hard to talk directly with your lender about ways to get things back on track. You are probably wondering what type of options might be available. You may have experienced difficulty understanding and dealing with all the paperwork involved in seeking assistance from your lender.
Mediation is a process where a neutral person, a mediator, guides the exchange of information between you and your lender, and then oversees an in-person meeting with your lender to see if there is an option to resolve your situation. Mediation is confidential, but we do keep the Court informed about the general progress of your case. If you do come to an agreement with your lender, formal papers are written up and delivered to you so you can review all the details.
Many people mix up “mediation” with “modification.” “Mediation” is the process of communicating with the help of a 3rd party who is completely neutral. A “modification” is a change to your loan terms, like lowering the interest rate or the payment amount. Many homeowners seek a modification of their loan by using the mediation program.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, your local courts and your local clerk of circuit courts have worked together to launch The Wisconsin Foreclosure Mediation Network. A non-profit corporation was set up to bring mediation services to your county. Counties are grouped into regions, and each region has an administrator. For example, in the Fox Valley area, the Administrator is the Winnebago Conflict Resolution Center, Inc. You can find the name of your administrator by clicking here. The administrator is your contact person.
There is no cost to request mediation or to work with a housing counselor. You and your lender must each pay a one-time fee of $150 before the case can be scheduled for mediation session.
While everyone is always strongly encouraged to consult with an attorney, you are not required to be represented by an attorney. You may contact the statewide Lawyer Referral and Information Service at (800) 362-9082 to obtain the names of attorneys who may be able to assist you. If you are working with a lawyer, please notify the Program Administrator of their name and contact information, because we cannot hold a mediation session in their absence without their permission.
The Network maintains a statewide roster of mediators. They have been specifically recruited, trained and mentored to do this work. Many are attorneys, some come to us with significant mediation experience, and some have backgrounds in the real estate or banking industry. What they all have in common, though, is that each mediator also completed a specialized training in foreclosure law, mortgage assistance programs and mediation skills. Many mediators volunteer their time.
Mediators do not decide the outcome. Mediators do not give legal advice to either party nor do they pass judgment on anyone. They are neutral and have special training to help the parties communicate and keep things on track towards a resolution. The mediator makes sure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard and to gain a more clear understanding of the situation. Hopefully, then the parties can agree to an outcome that is better than foreclosure.
The Programs in the Network serve people who are in foreclosure. The foreclosure must be on your first or second mortgage covering a one to four family property. You need not live in the property, but you may not own more than four other rental properties. Vacation properties or “seasonal homes” are not eligible, nor are homes covered by a bankruptcy “stay”.
There are three initial steps. To start, just complete the “Mediation Request Form.” This form is available here. You should have also received a copy on colored paper attached to the initial papers delivered to your home. Then, send your request form to the program administrator within 30 days of receiving the summons. If that date has passed, you can still make a late request, as mediation might still be a possibility.
Several days after you send your Mediation Request Form, you will receive a letter giving you the name of a housing counseling agency. Your second step is to contact your housing counselor to set up a meeting. This meeting is very important and there is no charge. The counselor will work with you to create a complete loan modification application and send it to the Mediation Program Administrator. Your third step is to pay the mediation program fee of $150 by check, money order or credit card payment (where available).
After you have completed all three mediation request steps, the Program Administrator will notify your lender to request their participation, seeking a response within 10 business days. Your Lender’s non-refundable mediation fee of $150 is due at the time of their consent to participate. If they decline, you will receive a refund of $125.
Yes. In order to increase the chance of success at mediation, you are matched with a housing counselor in your area. Housing counselors are specially trained and certified to go over financial information with you, and to discuss programs that may be available to avoid foreclosure. In most instances, if you do not take this step, the mediation cannot proceed.
Every case is somewhat different, because it depends how long it takes you to gather all of the documents needed for your loan modification application. We usually schedule your first mediation session to take place about 45 days after your lender agrees to join in. After that, it depends on how long the lender needs to do the work on their end. The lenders typically state that they can be prepared to talk about options within 30-45 days from the time they have all the information they need. Typically, mediations involve one or two more sessions, which usually take place by teleconference. In some instances, mediation concludes in three weeks. In more complicated situations, it can take six months. We ask everyone to be patient with the process.
The mediation process sets deadlines for both the lender and homeowner in order to prevent mediation cases from stalling. The lender needs to review the documents and identify any missing items within five business days. If we ask you to submit additional items or corrected items, you need to have it to us within 10 days. It is likely that your mediation case will be closed if you do not respond.
Typically, all borrowers must come to the mediation session; for example, if a husband and wife signed the mortgage, then both will have to come to the mediation. However, if a married couple signed the mortgage and later divorce, the person who was awarded the home may be able to participate without their ex-spouse.
Yes. All discussions in the mediation are confidential. Wisconsin has laws that do not allow anything said during the mediation to be used as evidence in court. All mediation participants sign an agreement at the beginning of the mediation session promising to keep mediation communications confidential.
The rules of the mediation program do not prevent your lender from moving forward with the foreclosure lawsuit. That means you are required to comply with all deadlines set by the court, including the time to answer the Complaint. Please read the Summons and Complaint carefully and make sure you understand your rights and the time period for filing an Answer or Responsive Pleading. If you do not file an Answer or Responsive Pleading, the court may grant judgment against you and you may lose your right to object to anything that you disagree with in the Complaint.
In Wisconsin, though, foreclosure is a lengthy process. As long as you are residing in the property, you are afforded at least six months to try to work out a solution or prepare for your next living arrangements. Click here to view a foreclosure timeline.