Of the Legal Staff
Delaware County has become the latest jurisdiction in the five-county region to create a program aimed at curbing the high number of mortgage foreclosures in the recession.
The Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program offers homeowners facing foreclosure free financial counseling and assistance in dealing with lenders through the program’s Mortgage Foreclosure Hotline.
Launched earlier this month, the goal is to get homeowners to seek help when a foreclosure action is filed rather than waiting until a sheriff’s sale is scheduled.
The program is a joint effort between Delaware County Council and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. It was created with help from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley and the Delaware County Bar Association.
Common Pleas Court President Judge Joseph P. Cronin Jr. had to approve the program and accepted the sheriff’s petition to initiate the hotline program. It will apply only to residential real estate that is owner-occupied and is approved for use from Oct. 1 through July 30, 2010.
“The goal is to help people stay in their homes,” Sheriff Joseph F. McGinn said in a statement. “We are notifying homeowners that they can contact CCCSDV through the hotline when they first receive a complaint from their lender. This will give them both time and expert information to work out a solution.”
As part of the new program, the first complaint initiating the foreclosure action is accompanied with a written notice advising the homeowner to call the hotline. The call will delay the action in the case for 30 days and the CCCSDV will notify the lender that the homeowner is working on a solution.
Since the beginning of the month, McGinn’s office has issued 110 foreclosure notices that included the new letter. The number of foreclosure actions in the county had remained relatively static over the last five years until 2009. There were 330 properties listed for sheriff’s sale in September 2009 compared to 231 in September 2008. In October 2009, there were 302 properties listed compared to 235 the same month last year.
County Council gave the CCCSDV $50,000 to assist with the additional expenses in running the program.
“This pilot program is the result of many partners coming together to develop a course of action that can assist homeowners before they are in dire straits,” County Council Chair Linda Cartisano said in a statement. “The Sheriff’s Office and County Council have been working to address the mortgage foreclosure issue since the Sheriff noticed an uptick in the number of properties listed for sheriff’s sale in January and brought it to Council’s attention.”