Florida is a judicial foreclosure state, meaning that all foreclosures must go through the court. This does not necessarily mean, though, that you have to go to trial when your lender is foreclosing on your home. You may have many options; one of the most popular is mediation.
Mediation is often highly misunderstood by those that have never been through it before. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding mediation so that if you are facing foreclosure and want to consider mediation, you will know what to expect.
How Does Mediation Work in Foreclosure Cases?
Mediation is a process in which you will meet with a mediator, the lender, and possibly your attorney to partake in negotiations. A mediator is a neutral third party that helps the two sides discuss their issues and come to an agreement, but the mediator does not make any decisions. The mediator is simply a facilitator who will encourage the two sides to reach an agreement more efficiently.
Where Do Foreclosure Mediation Meetings Take Place?
There are a number of places foreclosure meetings may be held. The two most common are either in the mediator’s office or in the courthouse. A foreclosure defense lawyer can arrange for the meeting to take place and direct you on where to go.
Is Mediation Worth It?
If you are facing foreclosure, you may already be exhausted about the fact that you cannot pay your mortgage, and you may wonder if mediation is worthwhile, or if it will only drag out the inevitable. It is important to understand that mediation can resolve a number of legal issues. Lenders do not want to own homes and foreclosing is a lengthy and expensive process for them. Due to this, they are often quite willing to work out a solution during mediation, and that solution may allow you to stay in your home.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
The cost of mediation will vary depending on the mediator who is chosen to conduct the meetings. However, you will likely not have to pay for them if the mediation meetings are successful and you come to an agreement. In this scenario, the lender or mortgage servicer will pay the fees associated with mediation. If you are not successful during mediation though, and you end up going to trial anyway, the lender or mortgage servicer can ask the court to require you to pay them the fees they covered for mediation.
Will the Mediator Decide On My Case?
No. The role of the mediator is quite clear, and it is important to understand what that role entails. A mediator will talk to each side privately to determine what their goals are, and then bring all parties together to discuss the issues together and to enter into negotiations. Mediators do not make any decisions, judgments, or recommendations on the outcome of the case. They are there strictly to facilitate discussions and negotiations so the two sides can reach an agreement.
What Will the Mediator Tell the Judge?
Very little. Mediation meetings are confidential and the mediator will only tell the judge whether the case has been settled or not. Any discussions that took place during mediation are inadmissible if the case goes to trial. If mediation is unsuccessful and the foreclosure lawsuit goes forward, the mediator still has a responsibility to keep anything said during mediation discussions confidential.
Can I Bring Exhibits and Witnesses to Mediation?
No. It is important to remember throughout the process that mediation and trial are two very different things. During mediation, you will discuss the situation with the other side, your attorney, and the mediator, but there are no opening or closing arguments, witnesses, testimonies, objections, or exhibits. You can bring documents that explain your financial situation and why you have missed mortgage payments. You should submit any documents you want to bring to mediation to your lender or their attorney before mediation begins so they can review the documents beforehand.
Do I Have to Testify?
Again, mediation meetings are not a trial, nor are they an official court hearing. Mediation is only a negotiation process, even if you are using a courthouse conference room to do it. Usually, lenders are present via speakerphone. You should listen and take part in the discussion when appropriate, but this is not official testimony.
Can the Mediator Advise on My Case?
You may think that because there is a mediator present, you do not have to work with a foreclosure defense lawyer. This is not true. The mediator is a neutral third party who is only there to foster discussion and compromise. They cannot provide you with legal advice, although they may point out issues with each side’s arguments and discuss the costs and downfalls of entering into litigation compared with agreeing on a settlement.
What Options Will Be Discussed During Mediation?
If your lender has started the foreclosure process, you may think you are out of options. This is also untrue. During mediation, you and the lender or mortgage servicer may reach an agreement on a loan modification, forbearance plan, a short sale, or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.
What if We Do Not Settle?
Although many foreclosure cases settle during mediation, this is not always the case. If you and your lender cannot agree on a settlement, several things may happen. The attorneys for both sides may agree to continue negotiations at a later date, the mediator may schedule a follow-up mediation, or you may be able to keep working with the lender’s loss mitigation department. Your attorney will advise on which option is best for you.
Do I Need a Florida Foreclosure Defense Lawyer?
Regardless of whether people use mediation or not during their foreclosure case, they often enter the process alone, which is a mistake. A Fort Lauderdale foreclosure defense lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected and can guide you through whichever process you choose. If you are facing foreclosure, our knowledgeable attorneys at Loan Lawyers will do all of this and more. Call us today at (954) 523-4357 or contact us online to learn more.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations. Contact us for a free consultation to see how we may be able to help you.