Washington State Foreclosure Fairness Program

The Foreclosure Fairness Program provides homeowner foreclosure assistance through free housing counseling, civil legal aid, and foreclosure mediation. The program, created by the 2011 Foreclosure Fairness Act, helps homeowners and lenders explore possible alternatives to foreclosure and reach a resolution whenever possible. Before initiating foreclosure, the Act requires lenders to notify homeowners of the availability of foreclosure counseling and the potential for mediation and to participate in mediation with homeowners referred to the Mediation Program. The program is funded through fees paid by financial institutions issuing notices of default on residential real property in Washington (some financial institutions are exempt from this fee).

Homeowner Assistance Fund

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed by Congress in March 2021 provided Washington with $173 million to prevent mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacement of homeowners experiencing hardships after Jan. 21, 2020. During the 2021 legislative session, the Legislature authorized Commerce to use these funds. Learn more about the program here. 

What is the foreclosure process in Washington?

Washington is a “non-judicial foreclosure” state, meaning a lender can foreclose on a property through a third party, the trustee, and not the court system. However, the trustee has a duty of good faith towards both the lender and the homeowner. This non-judicial process is described in the Foreclosure Fairness Program Brochure.

How can homeowners get help?

Contact a FREE housing counselor ANYTIME at 1-877-894-HOME(4663).
Foreclosure prevention counseling is provided free of charge to Washington homeowners. Counselors are trained to help homeowners understand their options and determine the best course of action, including referring them to the Mediation Program if they are eligible for mediation.

Low and moderate-income homeowners can also contact the statewide civil legal aid program at
1-800-606-4819 or visit www.nwjustice.org/get-legal-help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Foreclosure Mediation?

Foreclosure mediation is a process where a neutral third party (the “mediator”) helps the homeowner (the “borrower”) and the lender (the “beneficiary”) openly communicate and reach a fair, voluntary, and negotiated agreement whenever possible. The homeowner and the lender each pay half of the mediation fee to prepare, schedule, and conduct a mediation session. If more than one session is necessary, additional fees may apply.

Who is eligible to participate in the Mediation Program?

Homeowners may be eligible for mediation if they received a Notice of Default from their lender. The referral to mediation must be submitted to the Department of Commerce after a Notice of Default has been issued and no later than 90 days before the date of sale listed in the Notice of Trustee Sale. If an amended Notice of Trustee Sale is recorded, and the borrower has not yet requested mediation for their current Notice of Default, mediation must be requested no later than 25 days before the date of sale listed in the amended Notice of Trustee Sale. Some lenders are exempt from participating in meditation.

How is mediation requested?

Homeowners cannot self-refer to the Mediation Program. Homeowners can ONLY be referred to foreclosure mediation by a housing counselor or an attorney. The counselor or attorney will determine eligibility and may refer the homeowner to the Department of Commerce (Commerce) for foreclosure mediation. Eligible homeowners will be assigned a mediator (by Commerce) to conduct the foreclosure mediation process established in statute. Although not required, homeowners may benefit from a counselor or attorney assisting/representing them during the mediation process and session(s). At least one attorney typically represents the lender. Contact a FREE housing counselor ANYTIME at 1-877-894-HOME(4663).

What happens if there is no agreement after mediation?

After the mediation, the mediator will send a written report (the “certification”) to the homeowner, lender, trustee, and Department of Commerce. Once the mediator issues and sends their certification, the foreclosure mediation process is complete. If the borrower and the lender do not reach an agreement, the mediator’s certification authorizes the beneficiary to move forward with the foreclosure process, which may include selling the property at a trustee sale (see RCW 61.24.163 (13)). Borrowers may have a few options to consider. For more information, read “Borrower Options After Mediation.”

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