Providing Foreclosure Prevention Counseling

Homeowners facing foreclosure need to know what options are available to them. The path to foreclosure is determined by state law. However, homeowners are also protected under federal consumer protection laws and may have options for avoiding foreclosure depending upon the mortgage lender. For information related to working with homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments because of COVID-19, visit the COVID-19 Emergency Information for Housing Counselors page.

Foreclosure prevention counseling can help homeowners:

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The Importance of Foreclosure Prevention Housing Counseling for Homeowners

Taking immediate action can equip homeowners with more options to avoid foreclosure, also known as “loss mitigation.” Communicating with mortgage servicers and working with a HUD-Approved Housing Counseling Agency when difficulties arise can help homeowners preserve savings and develop a plan to support their housing goals.

A HUD certified housing counselor can assist homeowners by:

Types of Foreclosure

The foreclosure process varies state by state. Generally, foreclosure may proceed in one of two ways: judicial foreclosure or non-judicial foreclosure.

In judicial states, the lender must file a lawsuit in court to foreclose. This generally takes longer than non-judicial foreclosures, and homeowners typically may file defenses. Counselors should refer homeowners to legal services to assist in raising defenses. In most cases, in judicial states, home loans are secured by a mortgage.

In non-judicial foreclosure states, the lender can foreclose without going through the court system. Non-judicial foreclosures can sometimes be referred to as “power of sale” foreclosures. Generally, in non-judicial states, home loans are typically secured by a deed of trust.

In some states, homeowners may also have the right to mediation prior to or during the foreclosure process. The National Consumer Law Center tracks the latest information by judicial and non-judicial states.

Foreclosure Prevention Options

Under regulations issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), mortgage servicers must provide homeowners with written information about available loss mitigation options no later than 45 calendar days after delinquency. Servicers must also assign a point of contact to provide accurate loss mitigation information, including how to apply and status information about submitted applications. Under CFPB rules, mortgage servicers should not make first notice of filing for foreclosure until the homeowner is more than 120 days behind on payments.

Some options may result in the homeowner remaining in the home, while others prepare them for transition. Options may vary depending on who owns the loan (the investor). The following are some common options for retention and non-retention. Additional information is also available through the CFPB: If I can't pay my mortgage loan, what are my options?

Retention Option Description

Deferment

A payment deferral moves an overdue mortgage balance to the end of the loan term and immediately brings the loan to a current status. This is commonly used for borrowers with a short-term hardship who can afford to resume their normal payment. The deferred amount becomes due at the same time as the last mortgage payment.

Repayment

Repayment plans allow a borrower time to catch up on late payments by allowing arrears to be repaid in installments over several months to bring the mortgage current. Repayment plan amounts need to be paid in addition to the borrower’s normal mortgage payment.

Forbearance

Forbearance plans allow a borrower to make reduced mortgage payments or no mortgage payments for a specific period without being foreclosed upon. Missed payments are not waived during forbearance and will need to be paid back later.

Partial claim (FHA)

In a partial claim, lenders are authorized to advance funds on behalf of a borrower to reinstate a delinquent loan. The partial claim can permanently reduce monthly mortgage payments by deferring repayment of mortgage principal through an interest-free subordinate mortgage. The subordinate mortgage is not due until the first mortgage is paid off.

Modification

A modification changes the terms of the original loan and may reduce monthly payment amounts. Common modification terms include reducing the interest rate, extending the length of the loan, forbearing or reducing principal, and recapitalizing missed payments into the principal balance.

Retention Option Description

Short sale

A short sale allows a borrower to transition out of the home without going through foreclosure. This alternative allows a borrower to sell the home for less than the balance remaining on the mortgage, and the servicer accepts this partial payoff amount as full satisfaction of the mortgage balance.

Deed-in-Lieu

A deed-in-lieu allows the borrower to transition out of the home without going through foreclosure proceedings. It is an alternative to foreclosure, which allows a borrower to voluntarily transfer ownership of the property to the owner of the mortgage in exchange for a release from the mortgage loan and payments.

In some cases, declaring bankruptcy may be an option to help avoid foreclosure and address the insolvency. HUD-certified housing counselors should be aware of bankruptcy as an option but should refer homeowners to a bankruptcy attorney to determine whether or not it is advisable for the homeowner. For additional information, review the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) Consumer Bankruptcy Journal.

In order to determine which loss mitigation options homeowners are eligible for, it is important to know what type of loan they have.

View the Checklist: Counseling Homeowners on Loss Mitigation