Foreclosure: What does it mean for you?
The people who appear in this video are actors and the situation is fictional. The video is for information only, and it is not meant to provide legal advice. Information may become outdated as laws change. The legal information in this video applies only to Georgia. You should talk to a lawyer about your individual situation.
Sharon: So Jennifer, can you tell me what you did when had that problem with your house last year?
Jennifer: Oh, that. I hate to even think about that. And even now, it’s still not totally fixed.
Sharon: Well, I think we’re headed in that same situation. John lost his job about six months ago, and things have been really hard.
Jennifer: Yeah, I learned a few things last year when my boyfriend left. Like, if we were going to stay afloat, we were going to need all the help that we could get. What kind of help are you getting?
Sharon: We’re not getting any help at all. Mom helped out once around the holidays, but she’s on Social Security and she can’t help out every month. And John’s unemployment’s going to be cut off.
Jennifer: Yeah, my family wasn’t able to help out either. But we were able to get some help from the government and from charities, and they help with food and expenses. It was hard to ask for help, but I don’t know how we would’ve made ends meet without it.
Narrator: For help with your expenses, go to compass.ga.gov to apply for food stamps and more public benefits. You can find utility help at 1-800-869-1150. For help from private charities, call United Way at 211.
Sharon: Thanks, I’ll check on that. I didn’t know you could get help like that. But in the meantime, what do I do about this letter?
Jennifer: Oh, let me see that. Oh, this looks like a letter from somebody trying to rip you off. Once my bank started the foreclosure process, I got a lot of letters like this… offering to help stop the foreclosure, offering a loan modification…I can’t one of them and they wanted me to give them $500. Thank goodness I didn’t have the money. I found out later that legit companies won’t ask you for any money. You need to be able to find somebody who’s not going to charge you anything.
Narrator: For information about loan modifications, visit www.makinghomeaffordable.gov. Or call a HUD Certified Housing Counselor at 888-995-HOPE. Or you can contact a non-profit organization called NACA at 404-377-4545.
Sharon: That’s really good to know. I was going to call these people – I just don’t know what to do. The mortgage company sent this letter. It says that they’re going to start foreclosure if I don’t bring everything current. But I’ve been calling them for months and I just the runaround! I heard on the news that banks are supposed to help people like us, in our situations. Mine just keeps on asking me to send them papers, and then pretends that they don’t even get them.
Jennifer: There are programs out there that can help, but I needed somebody to help me though the process, it just didn’t work when I tried it on my own.
Narrator: To find a HUD approved housing counselor, call 1-800-569-4287. Or go online to www.hud.gov
Jennifer: But Sharon, I think you’ve got bigger problems than that right now. This letter is two months old. You need to figure out if the bank has already started the foreclosure process. The scary thing about foreclosure in this state is that it can happen without the bank filing a court case against you. That means there’s no judge checking to make sure that the bank is doing everything right.
Narrator: To foreclose in Georgia, the lender only has to follow special rules: to notify the homeowner by letter and publicize the sale in the legal newspaper.
Jennifer: If the bank has already started the foreclosure you need to get a lawyer right away.
Narrator: If you are low-income, call the Atlanta Legal Aid Society at 404-524-5811, if you live in the Atlanta area. Call the Georgia Legal Services Program at 800-498-9469, if you live outside Metro Atlanta. If you are not low-income, call the State Bar of Georgia at 404-527-8700 to find a private attorney referral service.
Sharon: John has job interviews this week; I just don’t have time to make a bunch of phone calls. I keep on missing work to make them! I’m afraid I’m going to lose my job if I take more time off.
Jennifer: I know, but this is really important. If you don’t’ act quickly, you could lose your house. In this state, foreclosures happen on the first Tuesday of every month. It’s the end of the month right now, so you need to call someone right away.
Sharon: That would be terrible… we wouldn’t have anywhere to go. Maybe I can get through to someone on my lunch break.
Jennifer: I think that’s a good idea. I have an uncle who ignored papers like this, and the bank did foreclose on his house.
Narrator: After a foreclosure, do not leave your home right away. Try to work it out with the new owner. The new owner must obtain a court order from a judge in an eviction case. Until December 31, 2012, new owners of foreclosed properties must follow existing leases; give certain renters 90 days notice to leave. However, the 90 day notice rule does not apply to former homeowners.
Sharon: What happened to him?
Jennifer: He was really in denial about his situation and he didn’t want to leave, so when the new owner offered him a “cash for keys” deal, he said no.
Sharon: And what’s “cash for keys”?
Jennifer: That’s when instead of getting evicted, you get paid some money to leave by a certain date. But in order to get the money, you have to leave the house really clean and in really good shape. And that’s when he finally got a lawyer. At the court they were able to work out an agreement, so as long as he pays rent, he can stay. But like I said, he was really lucky.
Sharon: Well, I hope it doesn’t come to that. Thanks for your help.
Jennifer: I know how hard it is… I’ve been there. Let me know how it goes.
Narrator: If you are low-income, call the Atlanta Legal Aid Society at 404-524-5811, if you live in the Atlanta area. Call the Georgia Legal Services Program at 800-498-9469, if you live outside Metro Atlanta. If you are not low-income, call the State Bar of Georgia at 404-527-8700 to find a private attorney referral service. To learn more about foreclosure on the internet, go to our self-help website at www.legalaid-ga.org.
Written by: Kristin Nelson Verrill
Produced by: Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. & Alston and Bird
Actors: Lillian Brown & Monica Skidmore
This project was made possible in part by: A Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation
Expertise generously donated by the law firm Alston and Bird
Video Development Committee: Tamara Sewer-Caldas, Marty Ellin, John Bartholomew, Nadine Lang, Cicely Barber, Jennifer Staack, Mark Harper, Darwin Berman, Kristin Nelson Verrill
Special Thanks To: The Honorable Jay Roth, State Court of Fulton County; The Honorable Patsy Porter, Magistrate Court of Fulton County; The Honorable Stephani Lacour, Magistrate Court of Fulton County
Copyright Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc., 2011