By Kevin Kelley
Several alternatives to losing one’s home are available today to people facing foreclosure.
That was the message that Andrea Kinast, manager of Cuyahoga County’s Foreclosure Mediation Program told members of Fairview Park City Council at its Sept. 16 meeting. September was “Save Our Homes” month, established to promote the county’s foreclosure mediation program.
The program, which operates under the auspices of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, helps property owners in foreclosure work with banks to catch up on payments or otherwise “gracefully exit the property,” Kinast said.
During the past five years, more than 9,000 cases have gone through the mediation program, Kinast said, with more than 5,000 reaching resolutions other than the loss of the property.
One reason for the program’s success, Kinast said, is that the lender is required to send a representative in person to the mediation meeting.
“It’s a lot easier to tell someone ‘no’ through a letter,” Kinast said. But a lender is more willing to work out a deal if forced to deal with a person face to face, she said.
Banks are not in the property-owning business and are therefore willing to work something out, Kinast said.
“There are so many more options today to a property owner who is delinquent than there were even five years ago,” Kinast told council members. For example, a property owner could apply for a new loan. Although getting a new one is difficult, Kinast said it is worth a try even if an individual was turned down before.
In addition, Kinast said, a state program called “Save the Dream” will give payments of up to $25,000 to homeowners if they suffered a qualifying hardship, such as the loss of 10 percent or more of their household income or experienced significant medical expenses.
“There are millions of dollars sitting in Columbus waiting for applications,” Kinast said.
Kinast warned those facing foreclosure not to fall for scams and not to give any money to anyone except an Ohio-based attorney for help.
“Don’t pay for help that you can find for free right in your own backyard,” she said.
Kinast also said property owners should never abandon their property until an official sheriff’s sale or some other resolution. Confusion over when someone must leave has resulted in huge problem with vacant and abandoned properties, she said.
Mayor Eileen Patton said 44 properties in her city are currently in the foreclosure process. Six of these require regular attention, such as lawn maintenance service, from the city, she said.
More information about the county’s Foreclosure Mediation Program can be obtained by calling 216-698-7138.