Programs

Illinois Foreclosure Mediation Programs

Grant Overview
Program Goals
Program Development
16th Judicial Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Incubation Program (Kane County)
17th Judicial Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Incubation Program (Winnebago and Boone Counties)
19th Judicial Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Incubation Program (Lake County)
Training
Monitoring and Evaluating
Impact
Staff Contact

GRANT OVERVIEW
In May 2013, RSI received a multi-year grant from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General to develop and administer foreclosure mediation in northern Illinois. The grant uses a portion of National Mortgage Settlement funds to develop foreclosure mediation programs in counties of Illinois that did not already have programs in place. RSI’s grant responsibilities include developing and operating foreclosure mediation programs in the 16th Judicial Circuit (Kane County), the 17th Judicial Circuit (Winnebago and Boone counties) and the 19th Judicial Circuit (Lake County), as well as training foreclosure mediators around the state and monitoring and evaluating all grant-funded programs.

Along with RSI, other Attorney General grant recipients include Northern Illinois University College of Law Community Preservation Clinic (NIU), University of Illinois College of Law (U of I) and Dispute Resolution Institute (DRI). NIU’s funding supports its Foreclosure Mediation Clinic, which provides limited-scope representation to homeowners throughout the foreclosure mediation process. U of I is conducting programs in the 6th Judicial Circuit (Champaign County) and the 21st Judicial Circuit (Kankakee County). DRI, a non-profit located in Carbondale, runs a program in the 20th Judicial Circuit (St. Clair County). Programs in Carbondale and Macon County are in the works and awaiting Illinois Supreme Court approval. RSI continues to work with our program partners to increase the impact and effectiveness of the foreclosure mediation programs.

In addition to developing and administering programs in northern Illinois, under the grant, RSI was tasked with training foreclosure mediators for our partner programs throughout the state. To date, RSI has held five foreclosure mediation trainings. Additionally, RSI is responsible for monitoring and evaluating all foreclosure grant-funded mediation programs. To this end, RSI developed and implemented a cloud-based case management, monitoring, and evaluation system, which we use to schedule mediations, prepare quarterly statistical reports and conduct program evaluations. The first of two scheduled comprehensive evaluations, designed to analyze the programs’ progress, including areas of success and areas that need improvement, can be found here. The evaluation is the most comprehensive ever conducted of foreclosure mediation programs in the United States.

PROGRAM GOALS
While each of the participating circuits has subtly different rationales for creating their programs, the judges in each felt they needed to provide homeowners with a fair opportunity to save their homes, an opportunity that they did not appear to have within the existing process. Agreeing on a modified loan is the way that most homes are retained. This required the exchange of a comprehensive set of financial documents. They saw a large number of unrepresented homeowners coming before the bench saying they had been trying to get a loan modification, but could not communicate effectively with their lender. Commonly, lenders did not have a single point of contact with whom homeowners could speak, the information given to homeowners by different lender representatives was contradictory and inconsistent, lenders were losing homeowner documents, and courts thought the process was taking too long. The courts wanted to give motivated homeowners who were able to save their homes the opportunity to do so and to provide them with a process that treated them in a dignified way. The courts saw mediation as the best method for doing this. Mediation can help improve understanding, facilitate communication and keep homeowners and lenders accountable.

PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT
In northern Illinois, RSI has worked in conjunction with the courts and other program stakeholders to design and implement foreclosure mediation programs in three judicial circuits – the 16th Judicial Circuit (Kane County), the 17th Judicial Circuit (Winnebago and Boone counties) and the 19th Judicial Circuit (Lake County). These programs provide a wide array of services to homeowners, who often benefit from foreclosure information sessions, housing counseling and legal aid services. When it comes to dispute system design and program development, RSI’s focus has been on creating systems that foster clarity and communication at each stage of the process. For these reasons, we have prioritized close relationships with program partners who have the ability to greatly enhance the homeowners’ experience with the programs. Each program has different needs and resources, but in all programs, homeowners receive some level of support in understanding their situation and in collecting, preparing and exchanging the documentation required by lenders.



Foreclosure Mediation Process


RSI is currently operating three successful programs by providing the following services:

  • Overseeing foreclosure mediation program development by working with the court, court clerks, housing counseling agencies, legal aid organizations, lender representatives, bar associations and other stakeholders to develop rules and documents each circuit needs in order to implement a mediation program
  • Training relevant court personnel and mediators on the foreclosure mediation programs
  • Working with housing counselors and legal aid attorneys to ensure homeowners have access to the programs and receive the services necessary to prepare for mediation
  • Providing program coordinators to administer the foreclosure mediation programs
  • Managing the smooth flow of cases through each program to ensure cases are dealt with in a timely manner
Additionally, RSI’s statewide grant responsibilities inform our program development by allowing us to work with a variety of experts across the state, furnishing RSI and other grantees with thorough and accurate program information, and facilitating two comprehensive evaluations of the incubation programs.

RSI’s statewide responsibilities under the grant include:
  • Developing and conducting two-day or 5-day mediator training for all ten of the foreclosure mediation incubation programs, with expert assistance from the National Consumer Law Center and seasoned mediation trainers and coaches
  • Developing a statewide, online case management and program monitoring system for use by all of the foreclosure mediation programs under the grant; the online monitoring system works on three levels: 1) day-to-day program management and scheduling; 2) program monitoring to manage and improve the effectiveness and progress of each program; 3) two in-depth statewide program evaluations
  • Conducting two statewide program evaluations, which report on outcomes and analyze all of the foreclosure mediation programs under the grant
16th JUDICIAL CIRCUIT FORECLOSURE MEDIATION INCUBATION PROGRAM
The 16th Judicial Circuit’s Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program serves Kane County, a large suburban Chicago community with more than 527,000 residents and a large Latino population. For this program, RSI has partnered with Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Northern Illinois, Joseph Corporation and Neighborhood Housing Services of the Fox Valley to provide housing counseling services, and with Northern Illinois University College of Law and Prairie State Legal Services to provide legal services. The program’s local rules were approved November 27, 2013, and the program officially launched January 2, 2014.

The first case entered pre-mediation January 20, 2014, and the first mediation occurred April 10, 2014. The first statewide, comprehensive evaluation of the incubation programs revealed the following highlights about Kane County’s program:
  • The program serves more homeowners than any other grant-funded program. The program served 366 homeowners, 84% more than the next highest program.
  • Homeowners who complete this program are very likely to avoid foreclosure. Of those who complete the program, 50% reach agreement to retain their homes and 15% reach an agreement to voluntarily relinquish their homes through a graceful exist.
  • When compared with all programs established under the Attorney General grant, this program has one of the highest impacts on homeowners. Almost 29% of all homeowners in foreclosure are helped in some way. Everyone who contacts the program receives some assistance with understanding the foreclosure process, their options and the services available to them.
Launch Date: January 2, 2014
Program Size: 66 cases entered the program in 2014
Program Staff: 1 full-time, RSI-staffed program coordinator and 1 full-time, court-staffed bilingual paralegal
Program Rule: Article 5.00: Mandatory Residential Foreclosure Mediation Program
More information regarding Kane County’s program may be found at their website.

Here is what homeowners are saying about mediation sessions in Kane County:
  • “Very friendly, helpful, and focused.”
  • “I liked the mediator’s involvement.”
  • “Very informal setting – not so scary.”
  • “Complete understanding and fairness.”
Here is what lender attorneys are saying about mediation sessions in Kane County:
  • ”Both parties were able to express their concerns and what the options were.”
  • “The mediator kept the parties on track.”
  • “The mediators were very neutral and listened to both sides.”
  • “Everyone was professional.”
17th JUDICIAL CIRCUIT FORECLOSURE MEDIATION INCUBATION PROGRAM
The 17th Judicial Circuit’s Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program serves Winnebago and Boone counties, which includes Rockford, Illinois’ third largest city. The counties are both urban and rural and have a largely non-Hispanic White population of about 340,000 residents. For this program, RSI has partnered with HomeStart, which provides intake and housing counseling. The program’s local rules were approved in November 2013, and the program launched on June 1, 2014.

The first mediation was conducted in Winnebago County on August 4, 2014. The program grew quickly and expanded into Boone County on November 1, 2014. While the program is still relatively new, its list of accomplishments is impressive. The statewide evaluation, analyzing program development and participant satisfaction through 2014 noted the following highlights about the Winnebago and Boone counties program:
  • 76% of homeowners who completed the program saved their homes. This is the highest rate of all the programs.
  • Almost all homeowners had a positive experience with the program. More than 95% of homeowners were very satisfied with their housing counseling session and 93% were satisfied with mediation. They overwhelmingly felt they were treated fairly and with respect by the housing counselor and the mediator.
  • All homeowners who enter the program gain understanding about their situation. The court’s goal for the program that homeowners better understand what their situation is and how to best move forward is being met, with 100% of homeowners saying they have a better understanding of their options for their homes and a better understanding of how to work with their lender, the great majority of whom said they gained “very much” understanding.
Launch Date: Winnebago County: June 1, 2014; Boone County: November 1, 2014
Program Size: Approximately 199 participating cases per year (116 entered the program between June 1 and December 31, 2014)
Program Staff: 1 full-time, RSI-staffed program coordinator
Program Rule: Rule 2.14: Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program

More information regarding Winnebago and Boone counties’ program may be found at their website.

Here is what homeowners are saying about mediation sessions in the Winnebago and Boone counties program:
  • “They were a blessing to us on helping us keeping our home.”
  • “The mediators were fair and unbiased and asked questions we didn’t think about.”
  • “I [was] made to feel respected and a[n] equal part of mediation.”
Here is what lender attorneys are saying about mediation sessions in the Winnebago and Boone counties program:
  • “He [the mediator] was very familiar with the foreclosure process and documents.”
  • “[The mediator was] Very knowledgeable and friendly. Very fair.”
19th JUDICIAL CIRCUIT FORECLOSURE MEDIATION INCUBATION PROGRAM
The 19th Judicial Circuit’s Residential Real Estate Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program serves Lake County, a large suburban Chicago community with just over 700,000 residents and a large Latino population. The county is economically diverse with pockets of poverty. For this program, RSI has partnered with Affordable Housing Corporation of Lake County and Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Northern Illinois to provide housing counseling services. The program’s local rules were passed on October 13, 2013, and the program officially launched on December 2, 2013. The first pre-mediation session was held January 16, 2014, and the first mediation occurred February 21, 2014. The statewide evaluation revealed the following highlights about the Lake County program:
  • When compared with all programs established under the Attorney General grant, this program has the second highest rate of home retentions for homeowners who complete the program. Of those who completed the program, 58% reached an agreement to retain their home. Another 10% reached an agreement to exit gracefully.
  • Homeowners had a positive experience in the program. From the informational session through mediation, homeowners indicated they felt they were being provided with good information, had been treated fairly and with respect and had a positive experience in the program.
  • The program has, by far, the shortest time to completion of all the incubation programs. The average of 63 days to complete the program is 17 days shorter than any other program.
Launch Date: December 2, 2013
Program Size: 155 cases entered the program in the first year
Program Staff: 1 full-time, RSI-staffed program coordinator
Program Rule: PART 19.00 - Lake County Residential Real Estate Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program

More information regarding Lake County’s program may be found at their website.

Here is what homeowners are saying about mediation sessions in Lake County:
  • “The mediator was great to work with.”
  • “I thought it was very helpful to have everyone sit down. Great process. The mediator was kind and helpful.”
Here is what lender attorneys are saying about mediation sessions in Lake County:
  • “The mediator was very polite and helpful through the mediation process.”
  • “He was very fair and neutral during mediation.”
  • “Understood all the issues very helpful in explaining situation to the borrowers.”
TRAINING
RSI believes that well-trained mediators are essential to building effective programs.

RSI has conducted mediator trainings throughout Illinois in support of the statewide efforts to develop foreclosure mediation programs. RSI has developed both two-day and 40-hour models. Experienced mediators receive a two-day training, where they learn foreclosure law and policy from the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), learn RSI’s “problem-solving foreclosure mediation process”, and then practice and apply what they have learned to the mediation process. In other counties, such as Kane, we conduct a 5-day training for new mediators, designed to provide a solid foundation in mediation process and skills, while also providing NCLC foreclosure training. In addition to lectures, trainees participate in small group exercises and foreclosure mediation simulations, where they receive feedback from experienced foreclosure mediator coaches.

RSI has also created a training manual, and has continued to evolve the manual in response to participant feedback. The manual is designed to teach mediation theory, process and skills, and to provide trainees with substantive knowledge of foreclosure law, the foreclosure timeline in Illinois and issues specific to foreclosure mediation. The foreclosure law portion of the manual has been created in conjunction with NCLC.

Mediator Training Testimonials
  • “Coach was incredibly helpful and supportive.” (Kane County training)
  • “The simulations were so helpful – learning by mistakes in a safe environment.” (Kane County training)
  • “The presenters were dynamic and engaging and well-informed.” (St. Clair County training)
  • “I can’t emphasize how important it was to have Diane [the NCLC trainer] open our eyes to the depth and breadth of the material involved.” (Winnebago and Boone counties training)
MONITORING AND EVALUATING
Under the grant, RSI is responsible for monitoring and evaluating grant-funded foreclosure programs statewide, our three and those conducted by our program partners. To this end, RSI has developed a cloud-based data collection, monitoring and evaluation system that lets program coordinators schedule mediations, communicate with program partners, keep track of all parties and monitor the progress of each case through their program, among other tasks. The system allows RSI to collect large quantities of data and to run reports so that we can look at that data in meaningful ways. RSI’s Director of Research, Jennifer Shack, prepares quarterly statistical reports (they can be viewed here), which are shared with the courts and our program partners. These statistical reports highlight areas in which programs are functioning well, while also drawing attention to areas in which programs may want to improve. These reports have been instrumental in revising program rules and goals by providing concrete data on many aspects of the programs and participants’ experiences. For example, programs have extended eligibility for program participation, improved communication with homeowners such as online video instruments, and provided workshops where homeowners can access various services.

Under the grant, RSI is also tasked with performing two comprehensive statewide evaluations of the programs, one halfway through the grant term and one at the end. The first of these evaluations, covering the period beginning with each of the existing six programs’ launch through December 31, 2014, was completed in June 2014. The evaluation concludes that the grant-funded programs are successfully mitigating the effects of the foreclosure crisis throughout the state by facilitating communication between lenders and homeowners, and by establishing a system in which homeowners feel they are treated fairly and with respect. Each program and its unique model is evaluated in terms of how program design is impacting outcomes and participant satisfaction results. The evaluation identifies successes and areas for improvement, making recommendations that the courts and program partners may want to consider in order to increase program impact or satisfaction ratings. The comparative aspect of the evaluation is possible because we have collected uniform data, while each program model is slightly different and serves a unique population.

IMPACT
RSI’s formative evaluation of the six foreclosure mediation incubation programs that are up and running throughout Illinois shows that, across the board, the programs are successfully fulfilling the grant’s goal of offering homeowners a fair opportunity to save their home. Each program is also providing a process that helps homeowners to understand what their situation is and what their options are for their home. The programs are facilitating communication between homeowners and lenders, so that parties might come to an agreement that is practical and beneficial for both parties. The programs are also fulfilling the courts’ goal of changing the homeowners’ experience with the foreclosure process to one in which they have some control and are treated fairly and with respect. They are doing all of this while moving the cases through the programs expeditiously -- on average, in about three months. Main findings on the impact of the six programs include:
  • Programs are helping between 11% and 68% of eligible homeowners: On the high end, the 6th and 21st Circuit programs each helped more than 60% of homeowners, while on the low end, the 19th and 20th Circuit programs each helped fewer than 20%.
  • Homeowners who complete the programs are likely to keep their homes: In the 17th and 19th circuits, 76% and 58% of homeowners who complete the respective programs reach an agreement to keep their home. Roughly half do in the 16th and 20th circuits.
  • Almost all homeowners report being treated fairly and with respect: In each program, most homeowners felt they were being respected and had the chance to talk and be heard. Their comments spoke of their appreciation for those helping them and the process itself, which helped them understand their situation and how to proceed, and allowed them to meet face-to-face with their lender. Almost all said they were satisfied with the process and the outcome.
  • Homeowners leave their pre-mediation session with greater understanding: In each of the programs, homeowners indicated in post-session questionnaires that they left their pre-mediation session with a better understanding of their options for their home and how to work with their lender. In the 17th and 19th Circuit programs, more than 70% left with a much better understanding.
  • Cases move through the mediation process quickly: The cases average taking between 63 and 102 days to move from first entering the program to either reaching agreement or ending without an agreement. There is no evidence that the mediation programs delayed the processing of foreclosure cases through the legal system.
STAFF CONTACT
Eric Slepak, Director of Foreclosure Mediation
(312) 922-6475 x31
eslepak[at]aboutrsi[dot]org