Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2014

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Supreme Court urged to extend foreclosure mediation

CARSON CITY – A state worker has urged the Nevada Supreme Court to allow early mediation for those in danger of losing their homes.

Sindy Scarce told the court that she may lose her home in Carson City within three months because of the required furloughs ordered by the Nevada Legislature. And she wants to head off the notice of default by re-arranging the loan.

The court is writing the rules that allow a homeowner to ask for mediation that requires the lender to participate once the foreclosure notice had been issued. The rules are expected to be completed by next week. And the court says the mediations can start by Aug. 1.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, who authored the legislation, predicted a “tsunami of cases” will be produced because Nevada is first in the nation in foreclosures.

The court, meeting in Las Vegas, heard two hours of suggestions Friday on possible changes to the regulations.

Scarce said her home is not in default now but wants to avoid that.

Chief Justice Jim Hardesty said the court has considered that and will reach out to lenders to see if they would be willing to enter into voluntary mediation to avoid a foreclosure. But the law, he said, requires that mediation is available to foreclosures filed on or after July 1 and does not cover pending foreclosures.

Buckley, who is executive director of Clark County Legal Services, told the court the lenders must send representatives to the mediation who have the authority to make decisions.

She said homeowners complain “time and time again” that they can’t reach somebody in authority to solve what may be a small problem.

If the lender sends somebody to the mediation with only limited authority, it “will harm the process,” she said.

Ray Patterson, an assistant professor at the Boyd School of Law at UNLV, said the mediators need not be lawyers. He said mediation requires a different skill set and the school is willing to set up mediation training.

More than 400 lawyers and trained mediators have submitted their applications to be part of the program. Each side in the mediation will put up $200 to cover the cost of the session.

The program will be located in Las Vegas and the court hopes to hire an administrator in the next few days. There were 19 applications for the job.

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