By Lisette Labrousse
Since October 2009 Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. and Haitian Lawyers Association has collaborated in ensuring that Haitian homeowners in Miami-Dade County have an opportunity to be heard when it comes to defending foreclosure lawsuits. For a third year, Haitian Lawyers Association has been funded by the Florida Bar Foundation to represent homeowners of Haitian descent keep their homes. The proceeds of the grant go to direct legal representation of these homeowners at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. These homeowners are often victims of predatory lending, deed fraud, equity skimming, bad financial advice, a poor job market or other situational hardships and life events.
At Legal Services the homeowners are able to obtain free legal representation which includes litigation defense or affirmative filings to resolve foreclosure disputes (mortgage or condominium), preparation and assistance with loan modification applications in connection with litigation, representation in bankruptcy court, and pre-foreclosure resolution whenever possible. Many Haitian homeowners have been able to successfully keep their homes through representation by a Legal Services attorney. These successes have been achieved at various stages of litigation, including trial, settlement and case dismissals. Homeowners have been able to use different strategies as options to save their homes from foreclosure, such as bankruptcy, loan modification, short pay offs, and reverse mortgages.
For those homeowners where home retention is not a viable legal option, not financially possible, or no longer a goal, then Legal Services attorneys advise the homeowner on the legal process of foreclosure from service to writ of possession, alternatives to foreclosure judgments, deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure, short sales, waiver of deficiencies, and cash for keys programs.
With the support of other grantees in the region, Legal Services and Haitian Lawyers Association meet regularly with the Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force. The meetings are quarterly and used to identify systemic issues in foreclosure defense like fraudulent and abusive lending practices, challenges with the legal procedure, the evolving modification process, litigation strategies, and changes in current laws. We also use the forum to discuss ways to address or alleviate unfair hurdles for the homeowners.
Since the start of the project in October 2009, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., has represented or provided advice to 280 Haitian homeowners in Miami-Dade County. To date, we have successfully saved the homes of nearly 15% of Haitian clients through various strategies. We have currently 30 cases pending where we strive to preserve the homeowner’s housing and maintain stability in their lives. We have an opportunity to continue serving the community under this grant until September 30, 2013. Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. welcomes pro bono volunteers to represent members of our community in foreclosure cases or other areas of law. To see other ways you can help visit www.lsgmi.org and click on the “How You CanHelp” tab.
Story posted from December 2012 HLA Newsletter.