In response to the ongoing foreclosure crisis in this country, several counties in Illinois -- Cook, Will, Peoria, Madison, Bond, McLean, and Lake -- have have implemented mediation programs to assist borrowers in finding ways to avoid foreclosure. Read on to learn more about these mediation programs, how the mediation programs work, and how you can benefit from the process.
(To learn about other options for dealing with foreclosure, visit Nolo's Foreclosure section.)
What is Foreclosure Mediation?
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:
- the borrowers
- their lender, and
- an impartial third-party (the mediator).
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 (often called loss mitigation options):
- loan modification
- forbearance agreement
- short sale, or
- deed in lieu of foreclosure.
(To get information about each of these options, see our Alternatives to Foreclosure area.)
How Foreclosure Works in Illinois
In Illinois, foreclosures are judicial, which means the lender must foreclose through the state court system. The lender initiates the foreclosure by filing a complaint (sometimes called a petition) 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 Will Your Foreclosure Take Place In or Out of Court?
To learn about the specific foreclosure laws in Illinois, see Summary of Illinois' Foreclosure Laws.
County Foreclosure Mediation Programs in Illinois
The counties of Cook, Will, Peoria, Madison, Bond, and McLean offer mediation programs. (Kane, Kankakee, and St. Clair counties are in the process of establishing mediation programs.)
Cook County Foreclosure Mediation
Cook County’s mediation program gives homeowners who have received a foreclosure summons access to housing counseling and legal assistance to explore ways to keep their home or negotiate a better way to give up the property.
Eligibility for Cook County Foreclosure Mediation
To participate in the mediation program, homeowners must:
- reside in Cook County
- have received a foreclosure summons from the Circuit Court of Cook County, and
- occupy the property that is being foreclosed on (the property can be a single-family home, single-family condominium, or an apartment building with four or fewer units).
Starting the Mediation Process
If you have received a foreclosure summons, you can schedule a free meeting with a housing counselor (the first step in the mediation process, which is then followed by a consultation with an attorney) by calling a toll-free help line at 877-895-2444 (312-836-5222 TDD) or by filling out an online appointment request form. There is no charge to participate in the Cook County mediation program.
If you are have not yet received a summons, but are in danger of foreclosure, you can go to www.regionalhopi.org/help to help identify available options to avoid foreclosure.
Will County Foreclosure Mediation
Homeowners in Will County who have been served a foreclosure summons receive a form explaining the mediation program along with the summons.
Eligibility for Will County Foreclosure Mediation
Anyone receiving a foreclosure summons for a residential mortgage foreclosure filed in the Will County Circuit Court after August 1, 2010 may participate in the program. Commercial foreclosures are not eligible.
The mediation program is free of charge for the borrowers. (An additional $150 fee is charged to the lender for every foreclosure filed in the county to cover the costs of the program.)
Starting the Mediation Process in Will County
Along with the foreclosure summons, borrowers are automatically given a pre-mediation meeting date and a financial questionnaire. The meeting is typically scheduled between 42-60 days from the date that the foreclosure case is filed with the court. On the given date, you must go to the location provided. Mediation participants will wait in a room until the mediator calls their case.
If you cannot attend the pre-mediation meeting, there is no procedure for rescheduling the meeting. If you do not show up for the meeting, the court will be notified and the foreclosure will proceed. If you want to reschedule your mediation at that time, you must request permission from the court, which has the discretion to allow or deny the request.
Documents Required for the Meeting
At the meeting, the mediator makes an initial assessment of your case based on your responses in the questionnaire. In addition to bringing the completed financial questionnaire, it would also be a good idea to bring supporting financial documentation such as:
- most recent tax return
- current bank statements, if available, and
- most recent W-2 and paystub (if employed).
If a loan modification or other loss mitigation solution appears possible, the mediator will schedule a full mediation conference. A representative of the lender must appear in person at the mediation conference to evaluate the borrowers for a solution to keep the home (such as a loan modification) or other loss mitigation solution to give up the property (such as a deed in lieu of foreclosure or a consent judgment waiving any deficiency judgment against the borrowers).
The Will County program’s goal is to complete the mediation process within three months. However, the process may take longer depending on the number of foreclosures being filed and how many parties elect to participate in the program.
Peoria County Foreclosure Mediation
In Peoria county, any complaint filed by a lender for residential foreclosure will be automatically scheduled for a mandatory pre-mediation conference within 60 days.
Eligibility for Peoria County Foreclosure Mediation
All foreclosure cases involving residential real estate are included in the mediation process. Along with the summons, defendant borrowers will be given a form explaining the mandatory mediation program.
Madison/Bond County Foreclosure Mediation
Homeowners in the counties of Madison and Bond who have been served a foreclosure summons will receive a form explaining the mediation program along with the summons.
Eligibility for Madison/Bond County Foreclosure Mediation
You are eligible for this free program if:
- The property is your primary residence.
- You are the borrower and your loan is being foreclosed.
- You have the financial means to make a monthly mortgage payment.
How to Request Mediation
If you are interested in participating in this program, complete the Request for Mediation and financial questionnaire attached to your court notice and submit it to the Circuit Clerk’s office. You have 30 days from the time you are served with a foreclosure summons to submit the Request for Mediation and financial questionnaire to be considered for the program. After you submit the request for mediation and financial questionnaire, the program administrator will review your information and notify you and the lender as to whether your case qualifies for mediation. If you qualify, a pre-mediation conference will be scheduled for you and your lender’s attorney.
McLean County Foreclosure Mediation
Homeowners in McLean County who have been served a foreclosure summons receive a form explaining the mediation program along with the summons.
Eligibility for McLean County Foreclosure Mediation
Residential properties are eligible for mediation. Foreclosures of non-residential or commercial property are not eligible for the program.
Documents Required for the Meeting
In order to take part in the free mediation program, you must appear for a pre-mediation meeting on the date set forth in the summons given to you. You will need to bring certain financial information, including information about your income and expenses, to the pre-mediation conference so that the evaluators can determine if a loan modification is feasible. (The forms that you receive along with the complaint and summons will provide details about what documents to bring to the meeting.)
Lake County Foreclosure Mediation
In late 2013, Lake County launched a mediation program to help homeowners facing foreclosure. To be eligible for the program, a homeowner must be involved in a residential foreclosure case filed on or after December 2, 2013.
Notice of Mediation
Notices about the mediation program will be attached to the foreclosure summons.
How to Participate
To participate in the mediation program, you must take all of the following steps.
1. You must attend an informational session offered by
the Affordable Housing Corporation of Lake County within 35 days of receiving the
foreclosure summons. The session will explain the foreclosure process and the mediation program. Informational sessions are held at night and on weekends at the branch courts in Lake County.
2. If you decide you want to proceed with mediation, you must schedule an appointment with a housing counselor within 7 days of attending the informational session. You will receive information about how to do this at the informational session. You must attend all appointments with the counselor and meet all deadlines.
3. As part of the housing counseling, you will need to gather certain financial information and submit it to the housing counselor before you meet with the mediator and lender.
After the housing counseling process has been concluded, the mediation program coordinator will schedule an initial mediation conference. The homeowner, the homeowner’s attorney (if any), and the lender’s attorney must attend the mediation conference in person. A representative of the lender with authority to settle the case may participate in person or by phone. All court proceedings are put on hold while a case is in mediation.
There is no cost to participate in the foreclosure mediation program.
Additional Funding for Mediation Programs in Illinois
On April 25, 2013, Attorney General Lisa Madigan awarded $5 million in grants from the national mortgage settlement to fund the creation and implementation of new mortgage foreclosure mediation programs in counties with significant needs, but without current programs. (Read more about the national mortgage settlement.)
Programs are currently being developed in the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 16th, 17th, 19th, 20th and 21st Judicial Districts.
Should You Participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Programs?
Even though participating in a foreclosure mediation program does not guarantee that you can avoid foreclosure, it doesn't hurt to participate in the programs. No court action will be taken against you while the mediation process is ongoing and the lender may be more likely to agree to a nonforeclosure solution at a 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.