Maine counties are working to implement the state’s new mandatory foreclosure mediation program, and a pilot program is already underway in the state’s most populous such municipality. The law allows homeowners who face foreclosure to request state-supervised mediation. It is modeled after similar mediation programs established in Connecticut and other states. The state’s other 16 counties are required to establish mediation programs by Jan. 1, 2010. In York County, in the state’s most southern tip, a pilot program is already underway and establishing procedures for mediation. According to RealtyTrac data, in January 2008, Maine ranked 37th in the country in rate of foreclosure. District Court Judge Andre Janelle is heading the effort, and recruited a group of retired judges to serve as mediators, Will Lund, director of Maine’s Office of Consumer Credit Regulation in the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, told HousingWire. Under provisions from the mediation law, Lund’s office, which traditionally serves as a regulator and licensing body for non-bank lenders in the state, created a hotline for homeowners facing foreclosure. In addition, all lenders in the state must report the names and addresses of borrowers that it initiates foreclosure filings. The consumer credit office then takes that information and mails a packet of information on foreclosure prevention resources in the state, including a one-page document borrowers fill out to request mediation from the court. Lund said his office receives the names of as many as 150 homeowners every week who get the foreclosure packets. Under the program, the borrower attends two meetings. The first is with a foreclosure counselor who advises homeowners on what documentation and financial information they need to have ready during the mediation. At the second meeting, the law requires the lender send a representative who is authorized to broker a modification deal, if feasible. With the program in its infancy, it is too early to tell the extent of the effect mandatory mediations will have on the foreclosure process, or even if it will actually prevent foreclosures rather than merely delaying the inevitable. But Lund said his office received a call to its foreclosure hotline Wednesday from a homeowner who completed a successful mediation. He believes as the rest of the state implements mediation programs, more homeowners will be able to avert foreclosure. Write to Austin Kilgore.

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