Sunday, March 2, 2008
The Baltimore Sun reports that the nonprofit group Civil Justice is working in Maryland to help homeowners facing foreclosure who have legitimate legal defenses. With only three attorneys and a small number of legal interns, the group can only take a few foreclosure cases - 50 currently, even though it receives new calls from 20 to 30 homeowners a week looking for help. In an attempt to leverage its efforts, it is seeking changes in state laws governing foreclosures and advising private-practice attorneys who want to help homeowners. Problems homeowners face include not only actual foreclosures but also "foreclosure rescue" fraud, where con artists target homeowners facing foreclosure by offering to save them from default. One private practice attorney who specializes in combating such fraud estimates there are no more than 10 attorneys in the entire state of Maryland who handle foreclosure-related cases for residents, as most attorneys with foreclosure expertise work for lenders. Maryland Legal Aid also represents low-income homeowners in foreclosure cases, but says it is receiving far more requests for help than it can handle.
On a personal note, the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic represents low-income homeowners in foreclosure cases arising in St. Joseph County, Indiana and has seen a similar overwhelming demand for legal services in this area. Many homeowners are in fact successful in defending against foreclosure if they are represented - the clinic students had a 100% success rate last term - but most homeowners facing foreclosure are unable to find a lawyer willing to help them.