Foreclosure mediation program averts hundreds of foreclosures

A state foreclosure-mediation program has helped hundreds Oregonians stay in their homes, though even more fail to reach an agreement with their lenders and thousands don't participate at all. The mediation program, launched in its current form in 2013, gives homeowners an opportunity meet with their loan servicer to discuss ways avoid a foreclosure. The program is self-sufficient, paid for through fees charged to participating homeowners and servicers.

New numbers from the Oregon Department of Justice show that from the beginning of the program through May of this year, more than 1,700 Oregonians reached agreements with their bank through the program, and nearly 1,500 got to stay in their home. At least 500 cases more were withdrawn when the homeowner and lender reached an agreement on their own.

The meetings more often end in a stalemate. Mortgage lenders are required to engage in mediation but not to reach an agreement, and nearly 1,900 of the conferences end with a continued path toward foreclosure.

And in more than 15,000 cases — a number somewhat inflated by double-filings — the homeowner declined to participate or didn't respond to the initial notice.

Participation rates have dogged similar programs nationwide. It's common for homeowners facing foreclosure to be unreachable. Some have already left their homes. Others, deluged by anti-foreclosure scams from the day a foreclosure filing is made public, ignore the official notice.

Improvements in the economy have helped secure better outcomes for homeowners, said Emily Reiman, executive director of the Springfield-based nonprofit Nedco, which offers foreclosure counseling. Homeowners who were unemployed before may have secured jobs which, even at lower pay, could make them eligible for a loan modification and lower monthly payments.

"The steady agreement rate we've been having is even better than what I'd been anticipating," Remain said. "I think it's a wonderful success story."

Another metric by which to measure the program: 97 percent of homeowners who complete the program say they would recommend it to someone in a similar situation, and 67 percent said they were satisfied with the resolution. Ninety-seven percent of lenders also rated the program as "neutral or better."



By Elliot Njus, The Oregonian/OregonLive
June, 2015


Connie Theron, Practising Attorney - UCT Law Clinic
“While working at the University of Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic and later at the UCT Law Clinic, I found the pro bono mediation services of Gerrie van der Watt of the Mediation Centre to be highly professional and extremely effective in our divorce matters. It is fantastic that our clients, with little or no financial means, can benefit from such an excellent programme.

The mediators are able to provide a non-threatening environment in which the clients are able to talk openly about issues that matter most to them, but which the Court in a divorce matter may choose not to entertain. Through the mediation sessions, the clients are able to reach an agreement together which ultimately they are both happy with. In cases where mediation did not yield the result of a settlement, the process was still extremely valuable, giving the parties better perspective and highlighting the key issues in dispute.”