The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County received an infusion of $365,634 in March from the National Mortgage Settlement, allowing it to hire additional attorneys and establish a new foreclosure hot line.
Homeowners fighting a foreclosure or struggling to get a loan modification are being encouraged to take advantage of the new resources before a July 31 deadline that could signal a return of unused money to the state.
Tequisha Myles, supervising attorney for the Fair Housing Project and Elder Law Project with Palm Beach County’s legal aid, said the increase in funds allowed her to add four foreclosure attorneys to the former team of just two.
Legal aid is also now offering help with homeowners association foreclosures, something they didn’t do before when staff time was more limited.
“We have been able to offer help beyond our normal services,” Myles said. “We can offer bankruptcy consultations, help people who have been scammed, or believe they were scammed through a mortgage rescue company, and bankruptcy consultations.”
Statewide, 20 legal aid groups were allocated $4.37 million by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was a lead negotiator in the $25 billion Nationwide Mortgage Settlement. The settlement, approved last year, was made with the nation’s five largest banks to atone for foreclosure-related abuses.
The money is being provided in three phases with an end date for services scheduled for July 31.
Legal aid will get another influx of money after this week’s decision by Florida lawmakers on how to spend $200 million from the National Mortgage Settlement.
Both the House and Senate agreed to give legal aid a one-time stipend of $10 million to help homeowners facing foreclosure. The legislation, SB 1852, must still get Gov. Rick Scott’s approval. If successful, the money will be available July 1.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed,” Myles said. “We are just trying to encourage as many people as we can to take advantage of this time that we have.”
Palm Beach County’s legal aid foreclosure hot line is (561)655-8944, ext. 326. For additional information go to legalaidpbc.org or call the main number at (561) 655-8944.