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Leaders Gathered at Milwaukee Courthouse This Morning to Raise Awareness of Mediation Program
MILWAUKEE — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Executive Director/Chief Mediator Debra Tuttle from the Metro Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program (MMFMP), Milwaukee County Circuit Court Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers and Circuit Court Clerk John Barrett gathered today with others at the Milwaukee County Courthouse to highlight the new and improved process in place for homeowners facing foreclosure and seeking mediation services. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Peter Bildsten and Deputy Secretary Ray Allen also were in attendance in support of the program. Mediation is a confidential and voluntary process where the homeowner and the lender discuss options for resolving the foreclosure case, including reinstatement of the loan and possible modification of the loan terms.
“I’m pleased to support this program and thankful to the many volunteer mediators, housing counselors, attorneys, lenders, and others who have helped make it successful in assisting thousands of homeowners,” Attorney General Van Hollen said. “And, with its statewide expansion, I look forward to its continued record of success. Foreclosure mediation serves the interests of homeowners and lenders but also entire communities by preventing the devastating loss and neighborhood impact that can come with a foreclosed property.”
The MMFMP is administered by the Milwaukee County Clerk of Circuit Courts with funding from the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). Debra Tuttle, Executive Director and Chief Mediator with the Metro Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program, recalls the story of one Milwaukee-area homeowner, Cassandra Roberson, who also spoke at today’s news conference about her recent experience with the program. Tuttle says, “Through mediation, we were able to assist this homeowner in getting a loan modification that offered an affordable payment and lower interest rate. Prior to that, she was running into obstacles, delays and ultimately, facing foreclosure. I hope others who hear her story -- who may think they’re facing insurmountable hurdles -- understand that mediation may be an option for them too.”
In March of 2012, the Program transferred its physical location and oversight from Marquette University Law School to the Milwaukee County Clerk of Circuit Courts. “We were so pleased to take over this program at a time when there was still a great need to help people keep their homes if at all possible,” Clerk of Courts John Barrett said. “We continue to look forward to working closely with the community partners and lenders to provide this important service.”
Homeowners may visit www.mediatemilwaukee.com to learn more about mediation eligibility and to fill out a “Mediation Request” form. Typically, within 30 days of the date of receiving the foreclosure Summons and Complaint, homeowners should complete the Mediation Request Form and return it to the MMFMP to begin the application process. However, interested parties are encouraged to contact the MMFMP at any time during the foreclosure process because sometimes mediation is available even after 30 days have passed.
Program Expands Statewide:
Foreclosure Mediators Needed for Wisconsin Foreclosure Mediation Network
With funding from the DOJ, the MMFMP announced last November the launch of the Wisconsin Foreclosure Mediation Network. This Network is assisting other counties with starting foreclosure mediation programs, with regional centers in Wausau, La Crosse, Hudson/Eau Claire, Oshkosh and Green Bay. The program also will “network” existing programs around the state, and provide those programs with resources and support. A training event is taking place April 18, 2013, in Madison for those interested in serving as foreclosure mediators. Attorneys, experienced mediators, or those with relevant professional experience who would like to serve on foreclosure mediation rosters serving Circuit Courts, the Eastern District or Western District; court officials, housing counselors, debt management attorneys, and paralegals are welcome to register and attend. Please visit the following link for information: Mediator Training Information (Registration deadline is April 15)
Under the Joint-State Federal Mortgage Servicing Settlement announced in early 2012 involving the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers, Attorney General Van Hollen allocated $458,550 for the continuation and expansion of the network’s foreclosure mediation services. A renewed memorandum of agreement between the DOJ and Milwaukee County continues support for the MMFMP beginning January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2013, and commits additional funds to work on expansion of the program statewide beginning October 1, 2012, through December 31, 2013.
As of July 2012, the MMFMP estimated there were more than 50,000 open residential foreclosure actions in Wisconsin. Each foreclosure that’s avoided is estimated to save local communities and stakeholders roughly $40,000, leading to an estimated $2 billion or more impact to the state.
The MMFMP, which began in July of 2009, has previously received more than $500,000 in Department of Justice funding from the Countrywide Financial Corporation lawsuit, as well as funds from the City of Milwaukee. Since inception, it has helped more than 3,000 families. On average, just under 50% of all mediated cases resolve the foreclosure with a loan modification, giving homeowners a fresh start and lenders a performing loan. When home retention is not a viable option, the programs provide resources and facilitate transitional options so borrowers have a dignified exit and a soft landing. A survey, which included both lender’s counsel and homeowners, found that 98% of program participants would recommend the program to others in foreclosure.