'Lifeline Law' gives homeowners extra 90 days before foreclosure

10:26 AM, Jul 6, 2009   |    comments
  • Kelly Roush
    
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Cedar Springs, Mich. (WZZM) -- If you're one of the thousands in Michigan facing foreclosure, a new law can help you.

Michigan ranks 6th in the country for foreclosures as of the first quarter of this year. In all, 33,000 properties are in foreclosure.

Last year more than145,000 Michigan properties were in foreclosure, a 21% percent increase from 2007. But the new law taking effect Sunday gives you more time to fix the problem.

It's called the "Lifeline Law", in which homeowners are given an extra 90 days to work with their banks. It's meant to help everyone; even those who've exhausted all options. Homeowners like Kelly Roush of Cedar Springs.

Even while getting ready for her three-year-old's birthday party, she can't stop thinking about what lies ahead.

"If he (her husband) loses his job we won't be able to make the next payment," she says. "Then (our home) goes into foreclosure automatically."

Kelly's husband has been laid off three times and they just signed their third mortgage to keep their home.

"We're okay right now, but if he even does a temporary layoff, or especially a permanent, I don't know what's going to happen."

Metaphorically speaking: they've been pushed to the edge of the cliff.

State Representative Mike Huckleberry doesn't like cliffhangers.

"There's too many home foreclosures," he says. "We're all one job loss away from foreclosure, one serious illness to our family away from this, it could affect any one of us."

Enjoying Independance Day weekend with his wife and grandchildren, "Huck" says the new law gives homeowners extra time to hold on to their American Dream.

"There's going to be people that wake up tomorrow morning with a little hope," the lawmaker says. "Maybe they didn't have it before, now it's an opportunity to try to save their home."

The law allows homeowners an extra three months to negotiate with their lenders; hopefully avoiding foreclosure.

They must also commit to working with a housing counselor.

"The 90 days comes in when they've reached a crisis moment," says Huckleberry. "So they should have a month or two when they're trying to figure out what to do before that. This 90 days could be the difference between you're out and 90 days after that."

"I think it's excellent for homeowners," says 20-year mortgage counselor Sam Mickens. He says the law is especially helpful because homeowners are forced to realize some really want to help.

"In this instance you're working with a professional that understands the process that those homeowners don't. It gives you more of an ease to the process so you know exactly what's going on," he says.

"I think they're intimidated because of the documents, the letters, the phone calls you get. So you're intimidated because you don't think you're going to get someone that will work with you," says Mickens. "But now with this law and this situation, I think you should be encouraged to do so, especially if you're facing foreclosure."

The common theme between lawmakers, counselors and homeowners is hope.

They say that, and the 90 days, can make or break a family.

"(It) gives us an extra three months, maybe find another job, and then the bank says, 'Okay, you've got a job, we'll work with you and you can stay'."

Both Representative Huckleberry and Sam Mickens say it's most important to understand the process and know if a lender wants to work it out if they can.

The last thing a bank wants is another foreclosed home.

"The lenders are going to come out better then they would have if they had to foreclose on it," says Huckleberry. "The people that own the home, the families are going to come out better."

Nick Monacelli

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