Foreclosure rates plummeted in 2011 due to widespread allegations that the nation's biggest mortgage lenders had committed improprieties in the foreclosure process by failing to verify the documentation in thousands of foreclosures across the country. Prompted by the so-called "robo-signing" scandal, several major mortgage lenders suspended their foreclosure activities during the investigation and ensuing settlement negotiations with state and federal government officials.
In February 2012, five major mortgage lenders settled with the government for $25 billion, with the funds intended to provide relief to struggling homeowners and those who had been improperly foreclosed upon. The settlement was formally approved in April, clearing the way for banks to resume processing foreclosures and begin working through the massive backlog of delinquent mortgages that had built up during the moratorium.
With lenders working hard to make up for lost time, foreclosure rates have rebounded in recent months to levels even higher than those seen prior to the robo-signing controversy. In May 2012, the first month after the settlement agreement was approved, foreclosure rates increased by 16 percent over the previous year's figures, breaking a 27-month run of annual declines, Reuters reported.
Preventing Foreclosure in California
For California homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments, there are several options that may be available to help save their homes from foreclosure, including:
- Mortgage modification: Involves renegotiating the terms of your mortgage to reduce your monthly payments, often by extending the term of the repayment period or adjusting the interest rate
- Refinancing: Replaces your existing mortgage with a brand new loan that has different terms
- Forbearance: Allows you to temporarily reduce your monthly payment amount or suspend payment altogether for a specific period of time to deal with short-term financial difficulties
- Principal reduction: Provides assistance to homeowners who are experiencing financial hardship and are "underwater" on their mortgages, meaning that the amount currently owed on the mortgage is more than the value of the home
Bankruptcy is another option for people facing the potential loss of their homes due to unmanageable debts. Although it is not right for everyone, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be a powerful tool to help stop foreclosure and eliminate debts, allowing borrowers to get back on track with their mortgage payments and keep their homes. For more information about stopping foreclosure with bankruptcy, and to learn whether bankruptcy might be the right solution for you, discuss your situation with a knowledgeable bankruptcy and foreclosure assistance attorney.