It was refreshing to read the recent New York Times article about the efforts the New York judiciary is making to ensure that all homeowners facing foreclosure are represented by an attorney. This is a welcome development. New Yorkers already enjoy the protections of a judicial process to oversee foreclosure proceedings. Providing lawyers should ensure that homeowners will have the opportunity to properly utilize the court process and will enable homeowners to assert any defenses that they may have to a foreclosure.
Foreclosures are legally complicated proceedings that require analysis of relatively arcane issues such as a lender’s standing to foreclose. They also require in-depth analyses of the financial impact and benefits of a potential loan modification on both a homeowner and a lender. New York has taken an important step in recognizing the importance of representation for homeowners in these proceedings, particularly in these times when a more common impulse is to pull back on new expenditures. Providing an attorney ensures that homeowners are not needlessly or unwarrantedly removed from their homes. Both New York homeowners and New York lenders should benefit from that.
In the District, we lag well behind New York with respect to protections for homeowners in the foreclosure process. Although the DC Council recently passed important legislation that will allow homeowners to elect mediation prior to foreclosure, it is not enough. DC should join the 20 states that already provide judicial scrutiny of foreclosures. New York’s judiciary has recognized the importance of the judicial foreclosure process by providing attorneys for its homeowners. In the coming years, DC should provide for judicial foreclosure and then follow New York in providing counsel for homeowners facing the loss of their homes.