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Partnerships work: A story with a happy ending

In April 2014, Marie Hogue, a foreclosure prevention counselor with the Economic Opportunity department, began working with a family whose home was at risk of foreclosure.

It was a complicated case, with the homeowners being ineligible for retention options of their house as a result of subordinate liens—that is, a secondary lien that is placed on a property, which has less of a payment priority than liens that have already been placed.

But the homeowners were not without legal options to protect against unfair practices that could result in the loss of their home. Marie recognized that by applying a protected equity law, the homeowners could request that the subordinate lien be discharged, thus making the homeowners eligible for retention options to avoid foreclosure.

Marie took the appropriate steps to request the lien discharge. The debt collector ignored this request—twice. Marie, recognizing that the debt collector had committed a violation of the Maine Statue on execution liens and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, escalated the case to Pine Tree Legal.

There was a delay in getting the lien discharged, which resulted in the homeowners being removed from the Foreclosure Diversion program, placing their home in jeopardy of foreclosure, facing trial.

Pine Tree Legal argued on the homeowners’ behalf, and won discharge of the lien. The homeowners were then able to apply for assistance to modify their mortgage and avoid foreclosure.

The foreclosure case was dismissed.

In addition, as the lien was discharged by the court, Pine Tree Legal took steps to bring the case forward  for damages under the Maine Statue of Execution Liens, the Maine Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. Pine Tree served as legal counsel in the matter, and Marie Hogue was called to testify.

“My testimony lasted over two hours,” Marie said. “I had to demonstrate that I was an expert in loss mitigation, account for the efforts in the homeowners’ foreclosure matter, and provide a history of the case.”

The court awarded the homeowners $61,404.19, for actual damages, statutory damages, and costs.

“The case is an example of the impact housing counselors can have when they advocate for homeowners facing foreclosure,” Marie said. “The homeowners in this case were unaware of the Statues and Acts and how they apply for their protection.

“Without the assistance of a housing counselor,” Marie added, “the homeowners would have lost their home to foreclosure.”

The case took 5 years to complete.