Legal Aid helps you find a way to work through this difficult situation as you try to keep your home.

FAQs

I have fallen behind on my mortgage payments, but no foreclosure has been filed against me yet. When will it happen and what can I do to prevent it? Close

Once you fall behind on your payments, your lender may attempt to file a foreclosure at any time. Most lenders wait at least three months. It is critical that you act right away and begin taking steps to save your home.

A local housing counseling agency that may be able to help you negotiate with your lender. Below is the contact information for housing counselors in the five counties Legal Aid Society of Cleveland serves. Legal Aid cannot help you before a foreclosure case is filed.

You should never pay a company to negotiate with your lender on your behalf. These services are available for free at the agencies below.

Cuyahoga County

Cleveland Housing Network
(216) 574-7100

Community Housing Solutions
(216) 231-5815

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP)
(216) 361-0718

Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland (216) 458-4663

Ashtabula County

Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County
(440) 992- 2121

Geauga and Lake Counties

Fair Housing Resource Center
(440) 392-0147

Lorain County

Lorain County Urban League
(440) 323-3364

I am several months behind on my payments. I don’t have the money to catch up. What are my options for keeping my house? Close

Loan Modification

Even if you are behind on your payments and cannot afford to catch up, there still may be options with your lender. Most lenders will consider borrowers who are behind on payments for a loan modification. A loan modification changes your mortgage and could bring you current and possibly lower your monthly payment.

Making Home Affordable Program

Many lenders are participating in the Federal Government’s Making Home Affordable Program, which requires lenders to modify qualifying borrowers’ loans to 31% of their monthly income. For more information on this program, visit the Making Home Affordable website.

Forbearance Plan

If you are currently seeking employment or another income source, your lender may consider putting you on a forbearance plan. A forbearance plan allows you to make a decreased payment each month to avoid foreclosure while you seek more income.

Special Loan Programs

In addition, if you have an FHA, VA, or a USDA Rural Development Loan, there are options available through these programs.

All of these options are only available if you seek them through your lender, so take action as soon as possible to contact your lender directly or contact a housing counselor to assist you.

You should never pay a company to negotiate with your lender on your behalf. These services are available for free at the agencies below.

Cuyahoga County

Cleveland Housing Network
(216) 574-7100

Community Housing Solutions
(216) 231-5815

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP)
(216) 361-0718

Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland
(216) 458-4663

Ashtabula County

Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County
(440) 992- 2121

Geauga and Lake Counties

Fair Housing Resource Center
(440) 392-0147

Lorain County

Lorain County Urban League
(440) 323-3364

I just received papers from the court saying that a foreclosure was filed against me. What should I do now? Close

It is important that you take action quickly to save your home. You have 28 days from the date that the foreclosure complaint arrived at your house to file an answer to the complaint. The length of time it may take to lose your house can vary depending on the county you live in and your involvement in the case.

Contact a housing counseling agency immediately to assist you in negotiating with your lender.

You should never pay a company to negotiate with your lender on your behalf. These services are available for free at the agencies below.

Cuyahoga County

Cleveland Housing Network
(216) 574-7100

Community Housing Solutions
(216) 231-5815

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP)
(216) 361-0718

Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland
(216) 458-4663

Ashtabula County

Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County
(440) 992- 2121

Geauga and Lake Counties

Fair Housing Resource Center
(440) 392-0147

Lorain County

Lorain County Urban League
(440) 323-3364

If you live in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain or Geauga county, contact Legal Aid immediately. Although Legal Aid is very limited in the cases it can accept for representation at this time, we may be able to give you some guidance on how to deal with the foreclosure case filed against you.

Can I file bankruptcy to save my home? Close

While bankruptcy is not an instant cure for foreclosure, it could help you save your home, depending on which type of bankruptcy you file.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy, in which most of your assets are liquidated and sold to your creditors, will halt a foreclosure case for a short time, but it will not prevent a foreclosure.

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy, in which you enter into a repayment plan on your debts, can save your house from foreclosure if you make all payments under the repayment plan.

You should contact a bankruptcy attorney to determine whether or not a bankruptcy could help you save your home and deal with other debts you have.

Next Steps

To find a bankruptcy attorney, contact:

The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
Lawyer Referral Service
(216) 696-3532

Now that a foreclosure case has been filed against me, how long do I have before I lose my house? Close

You have 28 days from the date that the foreclosure complaint arrived at your house to file an answer to the Complaint. The length of time between the filing of a foreclosure case and the confirmation of the sheriff’s sale of the house (the event that causes ownership of the home to shift from the homeowner to the buyer at the sheriff’s sale) can differ based on the county you live in and your level of participation in the case. Most foreclosure cases take at least 6 months from the date of the filing of the complaint up to the confirmation of the sheriff’s sale. While this may seem like a long time, it is critical that you act quickly to take steps to save your home.

What do I need to know about the 4/30/14 “Save the Dream” deadline? Close

Save the Dream works with approved housing counseling agencies to help homeowners get financial assistance to avoid foreclosure.  Depending on individual circumstances, Save the Dream may help bring a delinquent mortgage current, make mortgage payments for up to 18 months, reduce or eliminate the principal balance on a mortgage, or pay delinquent property taxes.  A person in need of assistance must register by April 30, 2014 and complete an application by July 31, 2014.  Registration and application can be completed online at www.savethedream.ohio.gov, by calling 1-888-404-4674, or by contacting a local housing counselor (available by calling 2-1-1). People facing foreclosure may also be eligible for legal assistance from Legal Aid and should call 216-687-1900 or 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help.

I’m facing a tax foreclosure after a tax lien sale – what should I do? Close

Consumers facing tax foreclosure after a tax lien sale, or with certain loans and vehicle issues, should call Legal Aid to apply for assistance!  

Legal Aid will evaluate and might be able to assist with problems related to student loans, payday loans, auto title loans, used auto purchases involving fraud, and auto repossessions.  Additionally, Legal Aid will evaluate cases involving a tax foreclosure or potential tax foreclosure where the county has sold the tax lien debt to a debt collector, and the debt collector is actively collecting on the debt and/or initiating foreclosure.

These matters are new areas of service and are in addition to the numerous other types of problems Legal Aid handles.  Please direct applicants to call 1-888-817-3777 to apply.

Is Financial Assistance Available for Seniors to Help Pay Property Tax? Close

A new wave of foreclosures hitting greater Cleveland is the result of the county selling property tax debts to institutions that then file foreclosures against the homeowners when they cannot pay the taxes owed.

Seniors on a fixed income sometimes face particular hardship in trying to pay even a small arrearage.  Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP) offers a small loan program (up to $6,500) for Cuyahoga County residents over age 55 who need a loan to pay back property taxes and avoid foreclosure.  See more information at by clicking here.

Can paying property taxes on time help avoid foreclosure? Close

Property taxes can be confusing to many people. But understanding them will make you a more secure homeowner.

You must pay your property taxes every year. Property taxes are usually split up into two bills that cover six months each. Many people do not realize they are paying property taxes. If you have a mortgage, your bank may be collecting what you owe for taxes each month and holding it “in escrow.” The escrow money is included in your monthly mortgage bill. The bank then pays the bill for you every six months, which makes it easy for people to forget about property taxes. But it’s important to remember them.

If you do not have a mortgage (or have paid off your mortgage), you have to pay your property taxes directly to your County Treasurer. (See the Homestead Exemption article that explains how you can lower your tax bill, if you are over 65 or disabled). It is important to set aside money each month to pay your twice-yearly property tax bills. Some County Treasurers have programs where you can pay your taxes over 12 monthly payments, instead of making larger payments twice per year.

Importantly, the County can take your home from you if you fail to pay your property taxes. This is called a property tax foreclosure. If you get notices that you are behind on your property taxes, start paying as much as you can right away! The longer you wait, the more late fees and additional charges you will owe. The longer you wait, the more at risk you are of losing your home.

You might be able to work out a payment plan if you talk to your County Treasurer:
Ashtabula County–(440) 576-3727
Cuyahoga County– (216) 443-7420 (Taxpayer Services)
Geauga County– (440) 279-2000
Lake County– (440) 350-2516
Lorain County– (440) 329-5787

Sometimes the county sells an overdue property tax debt to a private company such as Woods Cove or TaxEase. These private companies can also foreclose on your home if you do not pay the old property tax bills that they purchased.

If you are contacted by a private company about your property taxes, you should always check with your County Treasurer before paying a company that claims to own your old taxes. You want to make sure that the private company really does have the right to collect your property tax money. If a private company does own your old tax debt, you should ask that company about a payment plan to pay off the old taxes and avoid foreclosure.

Remember, even if you send money to a private company to pay off old taxes, you are still responsible for paying your current and future property taxes directly to your County Treasurer.

Paying your property taxes on time each year will help you keep your home and avoid foreclosure.

This article was written by Rebecca Maurer and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

What happens to your personal property if you’ve been evicted? Close

Ohio law prohibits your landlord from taking or disposing of your property after an eviction, unless the court specifically gives the landlord permission to do so. Landlords also cannot take your belongings for the purpose of recovering unpaid rent unless the landlord gets a court order. If your landlord takes your property without a court order and will not release it to you until you have paid back owed rent, you have the right to sue your landlord under Ohio law, specifically Revised Code §§ 5321.15(B) and (C).

If you make these claims, your landlord may argue that you “abandoned” your property, which would give the landlord the right to take it. Your landlord must prove that you:
(1) gave up all rights to your personal property and
(2) demonstrated your intent to never again reclaim your property.

Ohio law does not specify what a landlord is required to do with property left behind by a tenant who was evicted. However, in order to avoid liability for damages, your landlord should not dispose of any personal property left behind after an eviction and should instead store it and make it available to you. Landlords may charge you a reasonable cost for moving and storing the property.

If you were evicted and left behind personal property that you want, your former landlord may not require you to pay back rent owed in order to get your belongings back unless the landlord has a court order. Remember you may have to pay for the moving and storage of your property.

This article was written by Sara Bird and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

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