Foreclosure Assistance Available

August 8, 2012

While the Great Recession began about five years ago, families throughout our state continue to suffer from a stagnant economy and a depressed housing market. Whether losing one’s job or a home to foreclosure, times have been exceptionally tough on everyone, and I have continued to vote in favor of legislation to repair the economy and get people back to work. I have opposed raising taxes and increasing spending because they only serve to take away hard earned income that could be reinvested in a business or to help pay a mortgage. Unfortunately, foreclosure rates have started to climb once again in recent months. If you or someone you know may need assistance with their mortgage, this week’s column may help answer some questions.

According to recent news reports, foreclosure filings for residential properties have sharply risen in our state in June. RealtyTrac, a company that follows housing trends, reported that foreclosures increased 37 percent from the same month last year. The majority of these were first-time foreclosure notices. With this information in mind, there are programs to help those homeowners who may be at risk of defaulting on their mortgages.

Back in February, the federal government and 49 state attorneys general announced a $25 billion settlement with five major mortgage lenders after a series of investigations found that the banks regularly signed foreclosure documents without a notary public and without verifying whether the information was correct. The five financial institutions were Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Funding for the settlement comes from the banks and not taxpayer dollars. It will help provide relief to homeowners and make payments to both the federal government and the states.

In recent months, the state Department of Banking, the Governor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office hosted a series of statewide forums to get homeowners and banks face-to-face to resolve these issues. The settlement made about $119 million available for loan modification and refinancing relief for homeowners in our state. It also included about $28 million for the state to help offset the impact of the housing crisis. Some of the programs include the Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (EMAP), the Foreclosure Prevention Hotline, the Foreclosure Mediation Program and the Mortgage Crisis Job Training Program. For more information, please visit the settlement website at

In addition, free clinics are held each month by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and the University of Hartford Paralegal Studies Program to provide assistance to homeowners in foreclosure. They offer information about the judicial and mediation process as well as guidance on preparing documents. They also offer referrals for further counseling. At these events, homeowners have the opportunity to meet with a court mediator, a representative from the state Department of Banking and volunteer attorneys, paralegals and paralegal students.

The clinics are held on the third Tuesday of each month from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at two different University of Hartford locations. The next clinic will be held on August 21st on the 3rd floor of Gengras Student Union located at 200 Bloomfield Avenue in West Hartford. This year, the four other clinics will be located at the University High School of Science and Engineering located at 351 Mark Twain Drive in Hartford. These will take place September 18th, October 16th, November 20th and December 18th. For more information about this program, please call the Center toll free at 888-247-4401.

However, if you require more immediate assistance, the state Department of Banking Foreclosure Hotline is available toll free by calling 1-877-472-8313 from Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. It is my hope that by publicizing this information we can help keep families in their homes as we continue to push for legislation to help repair the economy.