Oklahoma's $18.6 million mortgage settlement with five big lenders will pay for legal services for people trying to manage a mortgage, avoid foreclosure and keep their homes — no matter the lender — in a new partnership between the state attorney general's office and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Monday that Legal Aid received $1.27 million from the settlement to hire, train and reassign 15 attorneys and seven paralegals to help homeowners with mortgage modifications, refinancing, short sales, housing counseling and navigating the foreclosure process in a program called Resolution Oklahoma.
Attorneys with the nonprofit Legal Aid also will look for unlawful practices by lenders and loan servicers and report misconduct to the Attorney General's Public Protection Unit, Pruitt said.
The attorney general “is now leading the charge, and the cavalry is coming to the rescue,” said Michael Figgins, executive director of Legal Aid. “Legal Aid is in the front line.”
Attorneys from Legal Aid's 20 offices statewide will be getting the word out by going to churches and other community groups, he said.
An initial grant of $50,000 will bolster the Oklahoma Bar Association's Unauthorized Practice of Law Initiative.
“Each day the OBA receives calls from Oklahomans who have been scammed by individuals pretending to be lawyers and offering mortgage assistance and expertise,” the association said in a news release. “Many of these homeowners do not realize they've been defrauded until they are in serious finance situations or have lost their homes. (The grant) will add resources to this program and improve the state's ability to investigate and prosecute criminals who aim to take advantage of Oklahoma families.”
An initial $15,000 grant from the mortgage settlement will train attorneys assisting service members and veterans in the OBA Oklahoma Lawyers for America's Heroes Program.
The America's Heroes Program was created in 2010 to offer legal advice and assistance to the 3,200-plus members of the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Infantry Division before, during and after deployment to Afghanistan. It now offers services to all service members and veterans in need. The mortgage settlement will fund services ranging from answering questions to courtroom representation.
Oklahomans needing legal assistance with mortgage and housing issues but not qualifying for need-based assistance programs can apply for up to $5,000 through the Attorney General's Legal Voucher Program. Homeowners can arrange to choose an attorney and reimburse the attorney for services with a voucher.
To learn more
For more information, go to www.oag.ok.gov.