By Mike Stetzer
Philadelphia Sheriff John Green has become a hero to distressed homeowners who are facing foreclosure. Green has stayed all foreclosure sales and has decided to step up to help homeowners who are in danger of losing their property.
Final Call News reported that the sheriff's office in Philadelphia is no longer auctioning foreclosed properties and has instead become the place for families to turn to for help when a foreclosure action is filed against them.
Green has seen many families suffering financially after mass layoffs or other circumstances and says that many are in trouble due to the poor economy and rising food and gas costs. He says more and more people in Philadelphia are falling behind on their mortgages and in danger of foreclosure.
The number of foreclosed properties auctioned by the sheriff's office had risen from approximately 300 to 400 per month to over 1,000 per month.
While Philadelphia offers a wide network of credit counseling services and housing counseling agencies, the staffs at these facilities are overloaded and simply cannot handle the large numbers of people who are seeking help. Green has called on the City of Philadelphia to make helping these counseling agencies a priority.
Green has outlined a three-point plan to help credit-worthy but financially stressed borrowers keep their homes.
The plan is titled "A Declaration of Neighborhood Security: Safeguarding The Right to Protect Our Homes" and proposes the launch of a massive publicity campaign to inform homeowners who are falling behind on their mortgage payments of the steps that they must immediately take if they have a chance of stopping a foreclosure action and negotiate a manageable payment plan with the lender.
The plan also calls for a community-wide coalition to be created to consider what short-term and long-term legislation would be effective to deal with issues such as lawyer's fees and the need for third-party loans to provide temporary mortgage relief to FHA borrowers.
Green also sets forth a plan to rally support in the community and provide assistance and relief in neighborhoods that have been ravaged by foreclosures.
Sheriff Green began stopping foreclosure sales in 2004 when he noticed a spike in the number of foreclosed homes.
When the number of foreclosures started to shoot up again in 2007, Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones proposed a resolution called the "Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Pilot" to impose an indefinite moratorium on foreclosure sales in the city.
Under court order, no house in Philadelphia can be sent to a sheriff's sale without the owner-occupant being provided court-sponsored mediation. Green is more than happy to enforce the measure.
Before the court-sponsored foreclosure mediation happens, the Pennsylvania homeowners must attend a free housing counseling session and draw up a reasonable proposal to send to the mortgage company.
If the housing counselor cannot strike a deal between the homeowner and the mortgage company, the homeowner and advocates for the homeowner and mortgage company appear at a conciliation session before a temporary judge. If an agreement still is not reached, the case will go back to court for an intervention. If the intervention fails, the home can then go up for auction at a foreclosure sale.
At first, mortgage companies were not happy that the foreclosure sales had been halted, but then realized that the foreclosure process is expensive and time consuming and it is also in their best interests not to foreclose on a home if a reasonable agreement can be reached.
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