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Washington State Bar gives Free Legal Help

•  State Bar News     updated  2009/06/17 09:13


The Washington State Bar Association has launched a program to provide free legal help to low- and middle-income people in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

Homeowners who call a toll-free number will be referred to volunteer attorneys in their communities who are trained to deal with foreclosure-related issues.

The bar association started recruiting and training lawyers for the program May 1, said Judy Berrett, director of member and community relations. So far, more than 270 have signed up.

The statewide program began accepting clients this week.

While the percentage of households facing foreclosure in Washington still falls below the national average, the number of filings is increasing. Last month, foreclosure filings nationally declined 6 percent from April, but filings in Washington jumped 14 percent, according to foreclosure-listing firm RealtyTrac.

The bar association modeled its one-year-long program on similar efforts in other states where the foreclosure crisis peaked earlier, Berrett said: "We've been gearing up for this for a couple months."

Free foreclosure legal aid already is available to homeowners whose annual incomes fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty level through the nonprofit, government-funded Northwest Justice Project, a partner in the bar association's initiative.

The new program will serve homeowners with incomes as high as 400 percent of the poverty level, or about $88,000 for a family of four.

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