A free mediation program has been launched in Lake County to help homeowners facing foreclosure.
The effort, run through the 19th circuit court system, aims to make the foreclosure process easier to navigate and to assist communications between homeowners and their banks.
A neutral mediator who doesn't represent the homeowner or the bank will oversee a discussion between the parties and help both sides explore options, including loan modifications that could allow people to stay in their homes.
"The program is not intended to force banks to modify loans," Lake County Judge Mitchell Hoffman told the county board during a presentation in Waukegan this week. "But it is intended to ensure that homeowners get clear and timely decisions from banks without undue delay of the judicial process."
To be eligible, a homeowner must be involved in a foreclosure case filed Dec. 2 or after. Notices about the mediation program will be attached to all foreclosure summonses.
Before entering mediation, a homeowner must attend an informational session offered by the Affordable Housing Corporation of Lake County, a nonprofit counseling agency.
They're held at the Lake County branch courts, and some are in Spanish. Homeowners must attend a session within 35 days of receiving a foreclosure summons.
Effective counseling can help mediation reach a timely resolution, Hoffman said.
Mediation comes next. All court proceedings will be on hold while a case is in mediation.
Mediators won't decide cases. Rather, they will help homeowners, banks and attorneys talk with each other and resolve the cases.
If mediation ends without an agreement, legal proceedings will continue in court.
The mediation program will receive funding from several sources, including a grant from the attorney general's office and case filing fees.
A Chicago company called Resolution Systems Institute is partnering with the county on the program. The firm recently trained 24 mediators for the task.
"Although this is not the first mortgage foreclosure mediation program in the state of Illinois, we hope it will be a model program for the rest of the state," Hoffman said.
For more information about housing counseling in Lake County or to register for a session, call (847) 263-7478.
For questions about mediation, call (847) 377-3552 or send an email to Olga Kordonskaya, who is coordinating Lake County's program, at email@example.com.