Frequently Asked Questions for Homeowners
Please note that Judicial Branch staff cannot provide legal advice or specific assistance related to individual foreclosure actions. If you need legal advice, please review the Foreclosure Prevention Resources page.
Am I in Foreclosure?
Do I need to move out if I am in foreclosure?
What is the Foreclosure Diversion Program (FDP)?
Who can have FDP mediation?
How do I ask for mediation?
Do I have to respond to the big packet of financial information forms that I received with the complaint?
How does the FDP help me?
What should I bring to the Informational Session?
What happens at mediation?
Do I need a lawyer to go to mediation?
Is mediation expensive?
What if I cannot make it to court on my mediation date?
If I sign up for mediation will I keep my house?
How do I contact the Foreclosure Diversion Program?
You are only in foreclosure if you have been given court papers, including a Summons and Complaint. These will come from the sheriff or by mail, and once you have them, you have been “served” with foreclosure papers. After you have been served, the bank cannot accept any money from you unless you have a trial agreement or the case is dismissed (dropped).
a) Do I need to move out now if I am in foreclosure? In Maine, foreclosure is a court process that takes some time. If you have mediation, you and the bank might agree to end the foreclosure action, but during mediation the case is “on hold.” Even if the bank later gets a judgment of foreclosure in court, this may take a few months. After judgment is entered, you have three more months to “undo” the judgment by paying the whole debt (“Period of Redemption”). After that the bank must advertise and sell the property. If the property is sold you must move out then. It takes at least 6 months after a person is served to finish the process.
The Foreclosure Diversion Program (FDP) offers mediation in the Maine courts. It gives both you and your lender the chance to talk about ways you might end your foreclosure, and if you might be able to settle your dispute. You will also learn from a judge and a housing expert about mediation and how to make the most of this opportunity.
To qualify for FDP mediation, the property in foreclosure must:
- Be in Maine;
- Have no more than 4 units; and
- Be your (the owner’s) home. It must be your “primary residence”, which means you live there most of the time. Summer homes and vacation properties don’t qualify for mediation.
If your property meets these requirements, you may have mediation if you ask for it.
All requests for mediation must be in writing and be given or sent to the Court Clerk. A copy of the request must also be given or sent to the attorney for the lender. Homeowners can request a mediation by using the one-page Answer form attached to the foreclosure complaint, by filing an Answer without the form, or by writing a letter to the court to ask for mediation.
To participate in the FDP, you are not required to complete or submit financial documents before your first mediation. Some homeowners do send documents and/or communicate with lenders in advance, but the FDP does not require such communication before mediation.
Before you attend mediation, the FDP provides an Informational Session. A judge and a housing counselor or attorney explain mediation and what you can do to try to work out a deal with your lender. The FDP also provides contact information for counselors who offer free help with financial forms that lenders often require you to fill out.
After the Informational Session, you will attend mediation on the same day, where you talk with your lender about ways to save your home (or other ways to end the foreclosure) with the help of a neutral mediator. This conversation increases your chances of keeping your home and having the foreclosure case against you dropped. Even if you end up moving out, you can make a plan with the lender about that, and maybe get help with moving expenses.
If homeowners have already submitted documents to their lenders, FDP mediation helps, because the mediators make sure everyone agrees to what more may be needed and when it is needed. All parties are expected to keep their promises.
Please bring any forms you have received from your lender to submit for a review of your loan. If you are able to complete the forms or can gather supporting documents, you should bring the partially or fully completed forms with you. You will have a chance to ask questions you may have about the forms. You should also be prepared to provide an estimate of your income.
You meet with your lender, who often attends the meeting by telephone. Your lender’s attorney will be in the room. The mediator will explain how mediation works and will help to answer your questions. You will have the chance to say what happened and if you want to keep the house. You will also hear the lender say what happened with your loan and what solutions are available other than foreclosure in your case. You will have the chance to ask questions and to make a plan for next steps.
The mediator will make sure that both sides have the chance to speak and important issues are addressed. The mediator will not take sides and will not make any decisions regarding your case. The mediator will submit a report to the court about the mediation, including any agreements made. (You may see the mediator typing on a laptop.) You will be asked to read or to listen to what the mediator wrote to be sure it accurately states any agreements.
No, you do not need to have a lawyer to attend FDP mediation. However, if a lawyer is representing you in the foreclosure case, your lawyer must attend mediation.
There is no fee for homeowners in FDP mediation. The FDP is funded by a fee charged to lenders who file foreclosure cases in Maine courts.
a) I know ahead of time. If you know that you can’t make it to court on the date set by the court notice, use the “Motion to Continue Mediation in Foreclosure Action” form (FDP-04) to let the court know why you cannot make it and to ask for another date. This is called a continuance. Fill in the form and send it to the court. Send a copy to the lender's attorney. The judge will decide whether your date can be changed, and if you have not heard what the judge decided, call the clerk to find out. No news means your mediation is on!
b) It’s the last minute! If you cannot make the court date due to a last minute emergency, call the clerk and explain. You will also need to send a written note to the clerk to explain what happened and what you would like. A judge will decide whether your mediation may be rescheduled.
FDP mediation does not stop the foreclosure, but it does put the case “on hold” for a time to allow the parties a chance to work out a solution.
If you have questions or suggestions about the Foreclosure Diversion Program, please contact: Laura Pearlman, the Foreclosure Diversion Program Manager at (207) 822-0706 or by email FDMP@courts.maine.gov.