Bar News - October 19, 2012
NH Bar Teams Up To Aid Victims Of Foreclosure
By: Kristen Senz
The NH Bar Association, in conjunction with two other legal services agencies and the NH Housing Finance Authority, is in line to receive substantial funding to help train lawyers to advise or represent people who are either at risk of losing their homes or struggling with the legal and financial fallout of foreclosure.
The funding, through the NH Department of Justice, comes from the state’s share of a multi-million dollar national settlement over questionable lending and foreclosure practices by the nation’s largest banks.
NHBA Legal Services is part of a coordinated plan approved unanimously by the governor and executive council last month. The plan, which awaits approval by the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, would fund efforts by the NHBA’s Pro Bono Referral Program, Reduced-Fee Referral Program, and Lawyer Referral Service Program, along with NH Legal Assistance and the Legal Advice & Referral Center, to provide affected homeowners with legal information and access to a range of legal services.
"This proposal would give homeowners coordinated access to legal help and enable us to provide increased support and training for attorneys, so we can build the capacity of the private bar to assist homeowners struggling with foreclosure," said Ginny Martin, NHBA Legal Services director.
NH Attorney General Michael Delaney presented a three-year, $3.5 million plan for helping distressed homeowners to executive council Sept. 19. The council approved one-year contracts with the NH Housing Finance Authority, NHBA Legal Services, NHLA, and LARC, with the option to renew after nine months. The plan would give NHBA Legal Services $253,250 in the first year.
The contracts are part of a larger DOJ proposal for New Hampshire’s portion of the National Mortgage Settlement, which includes the creation of a new unit within the AG’s office to investigate potential fraud cases, particularly against large financial institutions that have harmed NH citizens, Delaney said.
Under the proposed plan, NHBA’s Pro Bono, Reduced-Fee and Lawyer Referral Service programs will collaborate with NHLA and LARC to assist homeowners at all income levels through housing counselor referrals, clinics with free legal consultations around the state, and direct referrals to attorneys. The Legal Services Program at NHBA also plans to hire a staff attorney to provide support and expertise, as well as coordinate training for attorneys taking on foreclosure-related cases.
Although the National Mortgage Settlement payment would support this initiative, rather than the state’s general fund, additional approval for the DOJ to accept and expend the non-budgeted funds is needed from the NH Joint Legislative Committee, which was scheduled to vote on the plan in late October.
Bar News will provide updates on the rollout of the foreclosure assistance program to members as information becomes available.