Bronx Legal Services announces program to help homeowners avoid foreclosures after COVID-19

Alexis Lorenzo
Courtesy of Bronx Legal Services

While Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 until Aug. 31, many New Yorkers may be in a tight spot come September.

The legislation allows homeowners and small landlords who own 10 or fewer residential dwellings can file hardship declarations with their mortgage lender, other foreclosing party or a court that would prevent a foreclosure.

In an effort to keep people in their homes, Bronx Legal Services, the Legal Aid Society, and Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City, Inc., recently announced the “Anti-Displacement Homeowner Help Desk Project,” a new initiative that aims to help residents avoid the predicted wave of foreclosures, deed thefts and scams following COVID-19.

This will provide Bronx home owners with foreclosure prevention resources, hold workshops to inform them of their rights and connect them with experienced legal advocates.

“So many Bronx families have been devastated by Covid-19, putting their physical and financial health at risk,” said Alexis Lorenzo, director of Foreclosure Prevention and Community Economic Development Unit at Bronx Legal Services. “We want to make sure Bronx homeowners have the resources and information they need to weather this storm and stay in their homes once moratoriums lift. Getting ahead of possible foreclosures, deed thefts and scams is key to protecting homeowners from displacement and helping them keep the equity they’ve spent their lives building. We look forward to engaging homeowners and providing them with the tools they need to keep their homes during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Lorenzo, who has been with Bronx Legal Services since 2010, told the Bronx Times that more than half a million 90 day notices of default have been sent out in New York, which is three times what occurred during the recession of 2008-2009.

The initiative will focus on educating homeowners and community stakeholders in the targeted neighborhoods on the various forms of predatory scams that result in homeowners unwittingly transferring title to their most valuable asset, their homes, to unscrupulous speculators. It will serve as hub for connecting homeowners to free housing counseling services for home repairs, financial counseling, mortgage modifications, forbearance servicer requests and home loan refinancing.

The project will also refer homeowners to free legal service providers for assistance on predatory scams that result in equity and deed theft, obtaining clear title to a home left to them by a deceased loved one, representation in foreclosure related court proceedings and in negotiations with entities seeking to foreclose on non-mortgage debt, such a common charge arrears, property tax liens and water charge arrears.

Homeowners can contact the Anti-Displacement Homeowner Help Desk by calling 1-855-466-3456 or visiting https://HomeownerHelpNY.org.

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