Hiring a foreclosure defense lawyer is very serious. You should feel free to do research and talk to different lawyers until you find the one that suits you. Here are seven general questions that are good to ask prospective lawyers. You will probably think of more questions, but these are a good start.
1. How many foreclosure cases have you litigated in court against the mortgage company (filing bankruptcy doesn’t count)?
At one point, every lawyer is new and doesn’t have litigation or foreclosure experience, but there’s nothing wrong with you asking about their level of experience when it comes to dealing with litigation against mortgage companies. Ask if the lawyer has actually been in court, sued a mortgage company (or even thought about suing a mortgage company), or defended a homeowner against an eviction action or ejection after the foreclosure sale of the home.
Litigation is notorious for bringing up surprises, so a lawyer with litigation experience will have knowledge of some of the tricks mortgage companies use. However, the right lawyer for you might not have much experience.
2. How often do you attend seminars or classes to learn the latest strategies and tactics of mortgage companies?
Some areas of law change much more than others; however, foreclosure and home loan laws have changed drastically. Cases from just five years ago are very different from the way that same case would currently be handled.
For example, instead of mortgage companies holding mortgages for 30 years or until the home is resold or refinanced, there are now companies that immediately sell the loans to a “depositor” company that then sells the loan to a Trust. The Trusts don’t normally actually own the loans, so any threats of foreclosure would be unjust if they don’t own the loan.
Attending classes and seminars isn’t necessarily mandatory to be a good lawyer, but keeping up with the latest legal developments on the real estate front is certainly an asset.
3. What kinds of materials can you give me so I can learn more about foreclosures (such as brochures, books, audio files, videos, etc)?
Some foreclosure defense lawyers feel that you, the consumer, don’t deserve “free” information and should rely entirely on their expertise. They are afraid that you will take the information and then not hire them. Still, other lawyers offer online blogs, videos and articles to inform you. You have to decide if you’d rather entirely trust the defense lawyer’s judgment or do personal research. There’s no real right or wrong answer, it’s just a personal preference.
4. Are you licensed in Alabama (or the state in which you live)?
This may seem like an strange question, but some lawyers with no foreclosure experience are using the nationwide foreclosure crisis for personal gain by scamming and cheating people. Unlicensed lawyers often claim they can “scare” mortgage companies into backing down, which is ridiculous when they can’t even practice law in the state. Be sure to specifically ask if they are a licensed lawyer who can stop your foreclosure in your state.
5. Do you have one method in foreclosure defense efforts or multiple approaches?
Some lawyers just have one approach and others have a variety of methods. When choosing foreclosure defense lawyer, it also depends on the outcome you’re pursuing, such as having the foreclosure reversed or stopped, obtaining a mortgage modification, or if you want to file bankruptcy and still pay your monthly payment to keep your home. It’s important to find out which category you’re potential lawyer is in so you can decide if that method best corresponds with the outcome you’re after.
6. Is litigation the best way to deal with my foreclosure?
Litigation isn’t always the best option and different lawyers will have different opinions. If you have legitimate claims against a mortgage company, then litigation is the way to go, but if you’re simply behind on mortgage payments then it isn’t. For example, if you’re behind on house payments and can now afford to make the mortgage payment as well as the amount of back-payment, then bankruptcy might be the best option.
But if you’ve been the victim of bogus charges and fees or fraud and are planning to stay in your home, then litigation is the best route. When you’re in litigation and suing the mortgage company, you and your foreclosure defense lawyer will be facing corporate lawyers for the mortgage company who are trying to protect the company. If found guilty of bogus charges or fraud, the company’s reputation will be damaged and will then have to face the wrath of a jury of consumers…no one in the company wants that to happen, so litigation makes the company speed up the process of fixing your problem. Someone with actual authority will be handling your issue, not a random person in a cubicle who won’t return your calls.
7. How are you paid- by an hourly rate, flat fee, etc?
This is a very legitimate concern that you should feel free to discuss with your potential lawyer. Some lawyers charge an hourly fee, some a contingency fee, and others charge a flat monthly fee. Some even offer a combination approach that allows you to pay a monthly rate and also a contingency fee. It really just depends on the lawyer and it’s important to understand that there are many methods of payment to get you the right lawyer at a rate that you can afford.