ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There is so much buzz about the “foreclosure crisis” these days, that I think most third-graders could not only spell “foreclosure” but explain what it means.
Millions of homes are somewhere in the default and foreclosure process nationally. New Mexico has not been hit as hard as some communities where as many as one in four homes are creditor-owned, with attendant impact on property values and quality of life.
In Cleveland, Ohio, there were so many foreclosed and unoccupied homes that the city embarked on a program of demolishing these nuisance properties and deeding the land back to neighborhoods. An increasing number of cities have adopted, or are considering, specific legislation requiring foreclosed properties be reasonably maintained to avoid blight and some states are establishing mandatory resolution programs for lenders and borrowers along the lines of existing federal programs.
I have discussed the foreclosure process previously in this column. In those past discussions, I have recommended that those facing default in their home mortgages take immediate action. The problem will not go away on its own.
Be extremely wary, though, of those posing as “credit counselors,” “debt adjustment services,” and even law firms promising to get your problems solved for a large up-front fee: The only relief they’ll likely provide is to lighten your wallet.
You should respond to any legal documents you receive, and seek legal advice and assistance wherever available. From March 16-18, a local program will provide educational opportunities and counseling for homeowners in trouble. And its all free!
The UNM School of Law, in cooperation with the Attorney General’s Office and United South Broadway, a nonprofit consumer assistance organization, is sponsoring a program entitled “Helping New Mexico Homeowners” at the law school, located at 1117 Stanford NE. On March 16, there will be classes on foreclosure issues and individuals can meet with counselors and lenders on March 17 and 18. Participants should bring 1) default letters or court documents; 2) two pay stubs; 3) their 2010 tax return; 4) most recent bank statement; 5) current utility bills; 6) most recent mortgage payment notice; and 7) a brief “hardship” letter explaining their circumstances. For more information, sign on to helpingnmhomeowners.com .
This column brings my way a fair number of emails and letters with questions. I make it a point to respond personally to each inquiry. Wherever possible, I use your questions to develop future columns, and sometimes a specific question forms the basis for our explorations in these pages. However, readers have to understand that I am not able to provide specific commentary on individual cases, especially matters which are still pending, and I cannot give individualized legal advice to anyone but family members. It was my privilege to advise and advocate for my individual clients during my 30 years of private practice. As a judge, however, my advocacy is directed to maintaining a level playing field for all citizens and all matters in controversy. So, if you send me a question, my response may not contain a specific answer. Now you know why.
Alan M. Malott is a judge of the 2nd Judicial District Court. Before joining the court, he practiced law throughout New Mexico for 30 years and was a nationally certified civil trial specialist. If you have questions, send them to Judge Malott, P.O. Box 8305, Albuquerque, NM 87198 or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed here are solely those of Judge Malott individually and not those of the court.