Foreclosure Mediation Program Model Overview
In December 2007, Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer proposed that courts manage the increasing number of foreclosure cases being filed in Ohio by developing foreclosure mediation programs. These programs utilize the facilitative style of mediation where the mediator guides the parties through a party self-determination process to see if a mutually acceptable agreement may be reached to resolve the foreclosure. In the session, the mediator is a neutral third party; not an advocate for either party.
In February 2008, Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer announced The Foreclosure Mediation Program Model, the first of its kind in the nation. It is an 11- step model (outlined below) designed by the Dispute Resolution Section of the Supreme Court of Ohio. This Model is designed for courts to modify the model, documents and forms based on their local needs, resources and community, while balancing the needs of all stakeholders creating variations in the model between counties. To date, Ohio’s Foreclosure Mediation Program Model has been cited by the Washington Post, the American Bar Association, the National Center for State Courts, the National Arbitration Forum Blog, and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, among other Ohio and national news sources and organizations.
The model follows the rules of civil procedure, consistent with all other civil cases, while giving borrowers the same access to mediation that has been regularly available for other case types for more than a decade. Ohio has learned that mutually beneficial agreements do not always result in keeping people in their homes. In some cases, an agreement that is both commercially reasonable and sustainable over time cannot be achieved. However, mediation has proven successful in resolving cases by creating a transition for borrowers to find alternate housing and avail themselves of other resources to manage a difficult situation. It is important to note that some foreclosure cases need to be resolved through litigation.
One of the most successful factors being used are HUD certified housing counselors (see “Ohio Housing Counselor Contact Information by County) who assist the borrowers in completing, compiling, and providing the lender/servicer financial information before the mediation that is necessary to reach an agreement. The result is an efficient and effective use of state allocated resources because all parties are fully prepared for the mediation session, thereby minimizing the requirement for an additional session due to a lack of information.
Some local courts are also conducting pre-mediation conference calls to ensure that all necessary information has been exchanged prior to the mediation and to confirm attendance on the scheduled date. Additionally, courts have found success in allowing lenders/servicers to designate an individual with authority to settle (or having an individual with the required authority available for the duration of the mediation session) to participate by phone to minimize the cost of fees that may be charged to the homeowner, especially when the lender/servicers is located in another state or country.
Training is also a critical contributor to the success of the mediation programs, with a minimum of 18 hours of training recommended by the Supreme Court before mediating a foreclosure case. A directory of foreclosure mediators, organized by county, who have completed these requirements, will be provided among the links below in the near future. To date, all 88 counties in Ohio provide for mediation in foreclosure cases (see “Ohio Foreclosure Mediation Contact Information by County). Borrowers are encouraged to contact their local court to request mediation for their foreclosure case as soon as they receive notice of the case. Advanced training will begin in spring of 2009. For future training, roundtables to share best practices, dates and locations go to the Dispute Resolution Section's Training & Professional Development page.
Ohio is also leading a multi-state group of ADR professionals by creating online forums in which other states can work together as they build programs. Members are able to connect with judges and professionals in other states which include court and non-court organizations. To be become a member of this group or if you need documents that are referenced but not linked within the model, have questions, need assistance with implementing foreclosure mediation in your court or state contact the Dispute Resolution Section at 614.387.9420 or DisputeResolution@sc.ohio.gov.