Foreclosure mediation bill goes before Washington legislature

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by KING5.com

KREM.com

Posted on January 28, 2011 at 1:26 PM

NORMANDY PARK, Wash. - Thousands of people across the state who are worried about losing their homes are looking to lawmakers for help.

The Washington Bankers Association says 33,000 homes went into foreclosure in Washington in 2010, and it's going to be just as bad this year.

Some homeowners say all they need is a little help, but banks won't budge. Charlotte Gilbert is afraid of losing her home of twelve years. Her family is behind on their payments and can't seem to catch up.

"If your home is your best investment and dream, then you want to keep it," says Charlotte. She says she's tried to clear it up with her bank for almost two years, but never gets anywhere.

"I've sent in paperwork every month, every week. At Christmas, I wasn't thinking, 'Oh boy, it's Christmas,' I was thinking, 'I have to get that paperwork faxed to Chase,'" says Charlotte.

Charlotte testified Wednesday in Olympia about a bill that would require a face-to-face meeting between the bank and homeowner, giving the homeowner the option to request mediation. It would also fund more counselors for homeowners. 

Charlotte believes the meetings and more counseling are great ideas. The lenders at Wednedsay's hearing don't necessarily disagree. Their problem is the technical side of it.

"It seems there should be some sort of initial screening, maybe counselors to see whether modification is even a proper remedy," said Michelle Radosevich, an opponent of the legislation.

"Sometimes foreclosure is the only solution," said Denny Eliason with the Washington Bankers Association.

This bill is modeled after a Nevada law where almost 50 percent of those who participated did not lose their homes. 

The Foreclosure Fairness Act has a long way to go before it becomes law. If it's passed, the state attorney general could take legal action against lenders who do not at least try to negotiate.

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