In response to the ongoing foreclosure crisis in this country, many states have implemented foreclosure mediation programs to assist borrowers in finding ways to avoid foreclosure. In Wisconsin, certain counties have implemented such programs and made mediation available to homeowners facing foreclosure. Read on to learn more about which counties have mediation programs, how the programs work, and how you can benefit from the process.
(To learn about other options for dealing with foreclosure, visit Nolo's Foreclosure section.)
Foreclosure mediation is a process that is used to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by coming up with an alternate solution that benefits both the borrowers and the lender. Mediation consists of a meeting between:
At the meeting, the parties discuss the borrower's financial situation and try to negotiate a way for the homeowner to keep the home or give up the property without going through a foreclosure. By working together, the parties are often able to reach an agreement.
Potential outcomes of mediation include:
(To get information about each of these options, see our Alternatives to Foreclosure area.)
In Wisconsin, foreclosures are judicial, which means the lender must foreclose through the state court system. The lender initiates the foreclosure by filing a complaint and having it served on the borrower, along with a summons to appear in court. To learn more about the difference between judicial and nonjudicial foreclosure, and the procedures for each, see our Judicial v. Nonjudicial Foreclosure topic area.
To learn about the specific foreclosure laws in Wisconsin, see our Summary of Wisconsin’s Foreclosure Laws.
Wisconsin does not have a statewide foreclosure mediation program, however certain counties and districts have implemented programs to provide mediation to borrowers.
Below are the counties and districts in Wisconsin that have foreclosure mediation, along with the basics of how those programs work.
In Brown County, foreclosure mediation is available pursuant to Local Rule 413 if:
Notification regarding the availability of mediation. The lender will provide the borrower with a Notice of Availability of Mediation and Application for Mediation.
Foreclosure process stayed if mediation elected. If the lender and borrower agree to mediation, the mediator will file an Order to Stay Foreclosure Proceedings to Allow Mediation with the court. The foreclosure litigation will only be restarted if the mediator notifies the court that the parties could not reach an agreement.
Cost. The lender and borrower must each pay a $100 fee for mediation.
Pursuant to Dane County Rule 118, foreclosure mediation is available if:
How to request mediation. To request a mediation conference, borrowers must complete a Mediation Request form, which the lender will send to the borrower along with the foreclosure complaint and summons.
The mediation process. The mediation program coordinator will review the mediation request and notify the borrower and the lender if the case has been accepted for mediation. If the lender agrees to mediation, the coordinator will schedule a conference between the borrower and the lender. Prior to the mediation conference, the borrower will meet with a housing counselor to prepare a household budget.
Cost. The borrower and lender must each pay a $100 non-refundable fee.
For more information. Go to www.countyofdane.com/court/prepare/formOther.aspx and click on “Foreclosure Mediation Program.”
Iowa County has a local rule that requires lenders who file a foreclosure action to notify defendants that foreclosure mediation is an option under the state’s alternative dispute resolution statute.
Eligibility. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is available to parties in civil actions including those seeking money judgments and foreclosures.
Notification regarding the availability of mediation. The lender must inform the borrower that either party can request ADR.
The mediation process. The court will then determine if the case is appropriate for mediation and may order the parties to seek a settlement alternative.
For more information, go to www.wisbar.org and run a search for "Iowa County Mediaiton" to find a pdf of the Iowa County Circuit Rules.
Kenosha and Racine Counties offer mediation to homeowners in foreclosure.
Notification of availability of mediation. The lender must serve the borrower notice of the availability of mediation and an application form along with the complaint and summons. Forms can also be obtained by calling the Kenosha/Racine Foreclosure Mediation Program at 262-653-2592.
Eligibility. The property must be:
Requesting mediation. To request mediation, the borrower must complete and send the mediation application form to the Kenosha and Racine Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program within 15 days of receipt. Both the borrower and the lender must agree to mediation.
Meeting with a housing counselor is required. The borrower will be required to meet with a housing counselor to discuss available options regarding the property.
Required documentation for the mediation session. The borrower must bring the following documents to the mediation session:
Timeline. Mediations are typically scheduled 45 - 60 days after the mediation request is received.
Cost. The borrower and the lender must each pay a $100 processing fee. The borrower pays a $25 non-refundable fee when submitting the application and, if the lender agrees to mediation, the borrower must then pay the $75 non-refundable balance at least ten days before the scheduled mediation session.
For more information. Go to www.kenoshacounty.org/index.aspx?nid=386.
Mediation in St. Croix County’s program is a two-step process:
Notification of availability of mediation. The complaint and summons must also contain notice of the availability of mediation and an application form.
Requesting mediation. The borrower must file a mediation application within 20 days of receiving the summons.
Participation in the mediation program. If the borrower requests mediation, participation is mandatory for the lender.
Cost. The borrower must pay $100 when the mediation application is submitted. If a mediation scheduled, the lender must also submit $100, at least ten days before the scheduled mediation.
For more information. Go to www.co.saint-croix.wi.us and run a search for “Foreclosure Mediation Program” to obtain a link to information about mediation.
Much like in St. Croix County, the Waupaca County foreclosure mediation program is a two-step process:
Eligibility. To qualify for mediation, the borrower:
Notification of availability of mediation. The complaint and summons must contain notice of the availability of mediation and an application form.
Requesting mediation. The borrower must send the mediation application form to the Foreclosure Mediation Program within 15 days of receiving the summons, but mediation may be available even after that date.
Timeline. Mediation is typically scheduled within 60 days of the date the application is received.
Participation in the mediation program. Participation is voluntary for the borrower and lender.
Cost. There is a non-refundable $25 fee to apply for mediation. Once the case is accepted for mediation, the borrower must pay the non-refundable $75 fee and the lender must pay $100 before the case can be scheduled for mediation.
For more information. Go to http://archive.law.marquette.edu/foreclosure/waupaca.html.
Chapter 13 debtors can request mediation through the bankruptcy court.
Eligibility. Mediation limited to the debtor’s primary residence (investment properties do not qualify). Additionally, the debtor must have steady income and pay 31% of gross income or 75% of the current mortgage payment (whichever is less) while the mediation is pending.
Cost. The debtor and lender must each pay $125 to the appointed mediator.
For more information. Go to www.wieb.uscourts.gov/index.php/component/content/article/98.
More and more counties are adding mediation programs so check locally to see if there is one where you live. Also, you can check with the Wisconsin Foreclosure Mediation Network to find out if there is a foreclosure mediation program in your county.
The Wisconsin Foreclosure Mediation Network, a non-profit corporation set up to introduce mediation services throughout Wisconsin, was officially launched on December 21, 2012. It has implemented mediation programs in central, northeastern, and western Wisconsin, as well as addressed the chief judges in every Wisconsin judicial district.
Eligibility. To be eligible for mediation, the foreclosure must be on your first or second mortgage covering a 1-4 family property. You do not have to live in the property, but you cannot own more than four other rental properties. Vacation properties, seasonal homes, and homes covered by a bankruptcy stay are not eligible. (Learn more about bankruptcy.)
How to apply for mediation. First, you'll need to complete a mediation request form. Next, you must meet with a housing counselor to create a complete loan modification application, which is then sent to the program administrator. The administrator will then notify your lender to request their participation in the mediation, seeking a response within 10 business days.
To find out if there is a program in your region and to apply for mediation, go to http://mediatewisconsin.com/homeowners/find-your-region.
Cost. There is no cost to request mediation or to work with a housing counselor. You and your lender must each pay a one-time fee of $150 before the case can be scheduled for mediation session. If your lender declines to participate, you will receive a refund of $125.
For more information. To learn more about the Wisconsin Foreclosure Mediation Network, go to http://mediatewisconsin.com or call (877) 721-6262.
Mediation is separate from the foreclosure lawsuit, so in most cases the lawsuit will continue while mediation is attempted. This means that, even after applying for mediation, you must comply with all deadlines set by the court, including the time to answer the Complaint. If you do not file an Answer in court within the allotted time after receiving the complaint and summons, the court may grant judgment against you.
Even though participating in one of Wisconsin’s foreclosure mediation programs does not guarantee that a foreclosure will be avoided, it doesn't hurt to participate in the program. The lender may be more likely to agree to a nonforeclosure solution during mediation than if you approach it outside of the program. Or you might qualify for a loss mitigation option that you hadn’t previously considered.