Updated: Tuesday, 12 May 2009, 11:58 AM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 12 May 2009, 11:57 AM CDT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - As economists and policy-makers work out plans to help the nation's troubled economy, homeowners who’ve lost jobs, or whose salaries have been slashed, are struggling to pay their mortgages.
In response to the mortgage foreclosure crisis, the Alabama State Bar and Legal Services Alabama have joined in a unique partnership with a plan to help Alabama homeowners remain in their homes.
Under a public awareness and education campaign created by the state bar, homeowners facing foreclosure can call a toll-free hotline (1-877-393-2333) and be connected with a legal aid attorney who will advise them about the various stages of the process and furnish free legal assistance. Such assistance can take the form of limited representation, negotiation or litigation, if necessary.
State Bar President-elect Thomas J. Methvin of Montgomery (Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.), who chairs the Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force said, "Help is available. Homeowners need to know there are options but the key to a successful outcome is early intervention and I can’t stress that enough. If you are having a problem making your monthly payments and believe foreclosure is imminent you must act now."
Working in cooperation with the state Broadcasters Association, the state bar has produced a series of broadcast messages that will begin airing on radio and TV in Mobile and surrounding areas. In addition, the bar has available a public information pamphlet that provides answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about foreclosure. Copies may be downloaded from the bar's Web site: www.alabar.org and then click on the words "foreclosure resources."
Methvin said, "We are very concerned about people losing their homes. We are also concerned about other related effects of foreclosure such as reducing property values, creating blight with vacant and abandoned properties in neighborhoods, diminishing the local tax base which often supports important services, and straining court dockets."
He explained that Alabama allows for two kinds of foreclosure proceedings; judicial and non-judicial. Non-judicial foreclosures are actually more common and are the ones that can occur in such a short time frame, 21 days. This is why it is crucial for homeowners who have missed making even one monthly mortgage payment to call the hotline immediately.
At no cost, legal aid attorneys will interview homeowners by phone and may write a letter on their behalf to the lender for example, or, depending upon the circumstance, they will try to negotiate a work-out of the mortgage. In some cases, the attorney may represent the homeowner in various stages of foreclosure litigation, including mediation, but this option is limited to low-income individuals. A grant from the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation and from the Access to Justice Commission allowed LSA to employ attorneys to handle the calls.
"We are committed to assisting consumers who are facing the difficult prospect of losing their homes or filing for bankruptcy," Methvin said.
Legal Services Alabama is a non-profit organization providing free civil legal and law related services to low income Alabamians in all 67 counties.
The 16,000-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility, competence and satisfaction of its members, improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.