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State Supreme Court Stops Foreclosures, Gives Loan Modification a Chance: What Next, and Will Other States Follow?

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By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on May 05, 2009 1:23 PM

One recurring theme of the ongoing recession has been the seemingly incessant stream of foreclosures. However, South Carolina's highest court late yesterday afternoon issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) putting a freeze on thousands of imminent foreclosure sales in the state, reports the AP. The ruling provides some very needed relief to qualifying homeowners in distress by providing them with some time to seek mortgage modification under new government programs.

The TRO specifically "prevent[s] the foreclosure sale of any property arising out of a loan owned or guaranteed by petitioner or Freddie Mac or held by a servicer who has signed an agreement to participate in the HMP." The HMP refers to the Home Affordable Modification Program, which was announced in March of this year, and is a government program designed to help millions of qualifying at-risk homeowners by modifying their loans (see links below).

The South Carolina ruling requires the companies seeking foreclosure to notify all parties by May 15, 2009 as to whether or not the loan is subject to modification under the new programs. If the loan qualifies, then the freeze on that foreclosure will continue until a decision on modification is made. If the lender says the loan doesn't qualify for modification, that finding can be disputed in court. If a borrower qualifies and obtains a modification, then the foreclosure proceedings will be terminated. Of course, should they not qualify or obtain the modification, then the foreclosure proceedings can resume.

RealtyTrac Inc. says the ruling could affect 5,000 South Carolina homes. Although it is unclear whether such relief will be sought by Fannie Mae in other states, homeowners with qualifying mortgages facing imminent foreclosure might be able to follow up directly with the agency. By the same token talking to a local real estate attorney about pursuing similar (or other) relief may also be a good option.

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