South Carolina Supreme Court stops foreclosure enforcement
The South Carolina Supreme Court halted pending foreclosures Tuesday and instated a mandatory foreclosure intervention program. Chief Justice Jean Toal wrote in an administrative order that any foreclosure cases pending as of May 9 may not be subject to foreclosure or a foreclosure sale before going through a mediation program. Foreclosure intervention will also be mandatory for any foreclosure cases filed after that date. South Carolina is a judicial foreclosure state, meaning each individual case must go through the court system to be valid. Toal is hoping mediation will relieve some of the burden foreclosure volumes are causing to the court system. Toal attributes many of the unresolved foreclosure cases to a breakdown of loss mitigation efforts usually caused by miscommunication between borrower and lender. "Foreclosure actions are proceeding to conclusion without regard to ongoing loss mitigation efforts by the parties," Toal wrote. Foreclosure intervention, she said, will ensure that eligible homeowners and lender-servicers have been afforded the benefits of loan modification or other loss mitigation where possible, and affirm that the procedures for handling issues relating to such efforts are handled uniformly throughout the State, "so that mortgage foreclosure actions are not unnecessarily dismissed, delayed or inappropriately concluded while loan modification or other loss mitigation efforts are being pursued." Lenders must send delinquent borrowers a notice of their right to foreclosure intervention, review all pertinent documents relating to the foreclosure, and legally establish the borrower cannot qualify for a loan modification before initiating a foreclosure hearing. Borrowers may voluntarily opt out of intervention. Several other states have recently enacted mandatory foreclosure mediation. Washington state passed legislature of this kind in early April, while a similar bill in Connecticut moved out of the state Assembly with 14 out of 17 legislators in favor. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill in March that would allow bankruptcy courts nationwide to implement mediation efforts. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced a bill into the House that would provide grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to states and local governments for provide these services. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.