New York is one of many states across the country that has implemented court-mandated settlement conferences for residential foreclosure actions.
It is important to understand how these conferences work so that homeowners can take full advantage of this opportunity to delay and avoid foreclosure. The initial conference must be scheduled within 60 days after the proof of service of the complaint has been filed with the county clerk and allows the borrower to meet with his or her Lender and a court referee or judge to discuss potential workout options, such as loan modifications or payment plans. If the borrower decides to apply for a loan modification, the Lender provides the borrower with a document request for the loan modification application, and the court referee sets deadlines for the submission and review of the application. Typically, there are numerous conferences throughout the application process in order to ensure that the borrower is complying with the Lender’s document requests and that the Lender is properly reviewing the application. If a borrower believes he was improperly denied a loan modification, his attorney may request a bad faith hearing with the judge to determine whether the Lender should be sanctioned for bad faith negotiations. These settlement conferences not only help homeowners delay the foreclosure process but also can stop the foreclosure process all together.
Not every person who has a property in foreclosure in New York State is entitled to these mandatory pre-trial foreclosure settlement conferences. The law in New York (CPLR 3408), extends the conferences only to owner-occupied residential properties, so if a homeowner has a vacant property or a rental property in foreclosure, he or she is not entitled to a CPLR 3408 conference as of right.
Further, CPLR 3408 does not apply in federal court, but settlement conferences are still available at the federal level. Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows federal courts to hold pre-trial conferences for the purpose of settlement negotiations and encourages judges to take an active part in the settlement negotiations. The procedures differ at the federal level but the purpose is still the same. These conferences are often the difference between a homeowner staying in his or her home and losing it.