Law school program aids Seattle foreclosure prevention outreach

September 16, 2014

Angeline ThomasAn attorney and students from the law school will assist the City of Seattle with its new foreclosure outreach campaign.

The Seattle Office of Housing sought the expertise of the law school's Foreclosure Mediation Outreach Project in spreading the word about free resources available to help homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The Seattle Homeowner Stabilization Program will partner with community organizations to conduct targeted outreach to homeowners in areas of the city most impacted by foreclosures, as well as reach out to the entire city through social media, partner organizations, and the media.

"This outreach initiative is extremely helpful for reaching underserved populations that are disproportionately impacted by foreclosures in Seattle," said Angeline Thomas '11, the staff attorney for FMOP.

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has a robust foreclosure prevention program, and many community organizations are already working diligently to assist homeowners in need of assistance. The city will build off these existing efforts and relationships to help even more homeowners stay in their homes.

"Our primary goal is awareness," stated Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. "Many resources are available to the public, such as free counseling and legal services, which can help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure in many cases. But it is vital that people seek help as soon as possible to preserve their options."

FMOP has been doing that work for the past few years. FMOP trains law students to work with attorneys helping vulnerable homeowners. More than 60 students have volunteered for the program, assisting attorneys representing more than 350 homeowners facing foreclosure, and contributing over 2,500 pro bono hours. It is a collaboration between the Access To Justice Institute and the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic's Predatory Lending Clinic in partnership with Northwest Justice Project, Columbia Legal Services, Tacoma-Pierce County Volunteer Legal Services, and other community partners.

In 2013, there were 2,090 homeowners who received Notice of Trustee Sales, which provide notice of a scheduled foreclosure auction on their foreclosed property. According to the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, only 10 percent of distressed or at-risk homeowners seek out the free resources available to help them.

"We find that every household that is struggling to pay its mortgage is unique," stated Lili Sotelo of NW Justice Project. "The most important thing is for homeowners to seek help from a reputable organization as soon as possible so we can find the solutions that fit their situation."