Foreclosure Counseling Program

The Florida Foreclosure Counseling Program is designed to assist Florida homeowners who are at risk to losing their home through foreclosure through counseling services and financial management education.

The program is managed by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) and is funded with money from the National Mortgage Settlement. This program is expected to serve over 10,000 Florida families over the next three years through a network of non-profit housing counseling agencies across the state.

People who are interested in the services provided by this program should contact one of the approved housing counseling agencies in their area. You can find a list of agencies here.

On January 17, 2013, the Legislative Budget Commission approved a $10 million allocation from National Mortgage Settlement funds to provide foreclosure counseling services to be administered by Florida Housing.

The funding will allow Florida Housing to carry out the following objectives:

  • Help prevent homeowners from going into foreclosure
  • Provide at-risk homeowners with good financial management education to help them better manage their money and assist them with credit problems to become financially stable.

The program will use a network of HUD approved housing counseling agencies (HCAs) to carry out foreclosure counseling services and more extensive financial management education free to at-risk homeowners. The program will include providing counseling support for homeowners that augments counseling provided through the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program and other programs.

Over the past few years, Florida Housing has been awarded $9.5 million in NFMC funds to support 37 counseling agencies in the provision of basic counseling for more than 30,000 homeowners.

The new program will serve a minimum of 10,500 homeowners by building on the basic services provided in the NFMC Program. The objective of this new program is to more fully support homeowners through their delinquency resolution negotiations.

Services

The Housing Counseling Agency will develop an action plan for each client that is tailored to their needs and is revised as circumstances change. They will also assist homeowners with dealing with the loan servicer for their mortgage and other contacts throughout the process.

The program provides for several counseling session where the counselor can work with the family to develop a budget and to support them in dealing with their financial challenges.

The goal is to provide families with the ability to follow a tailored plan throughout the modification or foreclosure process, even after counseling is completed.

In addition to an action plan for their situation, many families also need financial education to ensure that these situations are less likely to occur in the future. Financial Management Education training will provide homeowners with the skills and knowledge necessary to ameliorate the risk of re‐default or avoid problems in the future.

Florida Housing is responsible for the administration of the program and is implementing a number of services through contracts with HCAs, a training and technical assistance provider, and compliance monitors.

Housing Counseling Agency Services. Only nonprofit HCAs approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are eligible to participate. Florida Housing will contract with 50-55 successful HCAs to provide services to homeowners. All HCA participating in the program will be reviewed by staff and approved by the Florida Housing Board.

Training and Monitoring Services. The Florida Housing Counselor Network has been selected to provide the technical assistance and training on foreclosure counseling to ensure that HCAs and their staffs are knowledgeable about the particulars of this program, including reporting requirements, as well as providing high quality services to homeowners.

Compliance Monitoring. Florida Housing will use third party servicers currently under contract to provide compliance monitoring services for this program. These monitors will review client files to ensure that all program criteria are met and all request for payments are appropriate.

Data Reporting System to Monitor Program Success and Manage Reporting and Reimbursement for Services. Florida Housing has contracted to expand an existing software program that the HCAs are already using to collect data for this program. This program will track homeowners served by the program and is designed to monitor the outcomes of the program and provide a way for the HCAs to report each month on services provided for reimbursement purposes.

HCA Training. The Florida Housing Counselor Network will provide, along with Florida Housing, an initial training that will be required of all HCAs participating in this program. At a minimum, all participating HCAs and their staff working under this program are required to receive training on the program objectives, specific services and reporting outcomes, procedures for reimbursement of services, monthly data reporting, technical assistance opportunities, compliance monitoring and quality assurance requirements. Additional training will be available to HCA staff through webinars and online learning modules.

Foreclosure Counseling and Financial Management Education Services to Homeowners Statewide. Funding for all counseling and education services will be proportionally reserved for homeowners in each county. As HCAs identify clients that are eligible for services through this program, money to support that family though phases of the program will be reserved for that family. After the initial year of service Florida Housing will valuate expenditures in the program and, as necessary, propose revisions to the allocation methodology to ensure that program funds continue to flow expediently throughout the state.

Ongoing Program Activities. The HCAs will provide services to homeowners and provide Florida Housing with data on services rendered and homeowner status each month. In addition, there will be several additional ongoing activities:

  • monitoring of counseling for quality assurance
  • technical assistance for HCA's
  • monitoring of billing and any eligibility requirements for participating HCA's
  • monitoring for possible fraud

Evaluating program success and providing regular progress reports. Florida Housing will employ program performance measures that address program outcomes, including successful homeowner financial management training. Florida Housing expects to provide regular progress reports to the Board, Governor, Legislature and Attorney General on this program.

Counseling milestones will be used to determine a client’s progress through the program.

  1. Level One Counseling Services. Basic Counseling will be the initial intake session with a homeowner and will include, client intake, identifying the homeowner’s goal(s), verification and documentation of a homeowner’s budget and financial information, determination of delinquency status, evaluation of affordability options, determination of the best course of action for the homeowner, preparation of an action plan, and initiation of delinquency resolution negotiations with the lender. Clients entering the FCP that have already received these services through the NFMC or other programs will proceed directly into Level Two Counseling Services.
  2. Level Two Counseling Services. This phase will provide additional counseling services needed to assist a homeowner with implementation of the action plan prepared in Level One and Financial Management Training. These services will include ongoing support through the process of pursuing a loan modification or other resolution as a homeowner resolves financial issues and negotiates with their lender.
  3. Level Three Counseling Services. This phase will support a homeowner once they have received approval of a trial and/or permanent loan modification, including such actions as a review of the homeowner financial status, additional budgeting work, review/revision of action plan, counseling related to staying current on mortgage payments and related documentation.
  4. Level Four Counseling Services. This phase will support a homeowner if the homeowner is denied a loan modification or the homeowner is unsuccessful in maintaining the payments in a trial loan modification (i.e., circumstances are such that the homeowner will not be able to remain in their home). These services will include discussion of a transition plan (e.g., short sale, foreclosure, deed in lieu) and timeline, review and revision of action plan and any final review/revision of the homeowner’s budget.
  5. Financial Management Education (payment will be made as part of Level Two). Financial Management Education training will provide homeowners with the skills and knowledge necessary to ameliorate the risk of re‐default or avoid problems in the future. Provided by the HCAs, this service may be provided in a one‐on‐one session or in a group and may include in person training and virtual training.

All HCAs participating in the FCP will be required to meet all of the following standards:

  1. Experience: All counseling agencies must have a minimum of two years of experience in the delivery of foreclosure intervention and delinquency resolution services. Counselors working at these agencies will be required to be certified through training and have experience working in existing foreclosure counseling programs.
  2. Facilities: Any premises used for counseling services must be clean, safe and accessible to all persons, including persons with disabilities. The HCA must have facilities available to give private counseling sessions. The facilities may be offsite if necessary. If the HCA provides group counseling sessions, the premises must maintain the same standards.
  3. Outreach and Marketing: The HCA must make reasonable efforts to reach clients who need its services. This may be done in a variety of ways: advertising, contact with social agencies and partnering with other entities in the HCAs service area. The HCA should implement an outreach and marketing plan where possible. The HCA must make sure that any information disseminated in any format is not false or misleading.
  4. Recordkeeping: The HCA must use a client management software that can provide the required data elements in an electronic format that is acceptable to Florida Housing.
  5. File Retention: Files must be maintained in a manner which safeguards the privacy of the client’s information. Paper documentation must be kept in secured file cabinets. Scanned or electronically stored documents must be safeguarded in a fashion that securely maintains client privacy. Files must be retained for a minimum of three (3) years from the outcome date or longer if there is an audit, investigation or litigation in progress.
  6. National Industry Standards: The HCA must adopt The National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling.
  7. Certification: All counselors and applicable administrators must be trained to provide services under this contract and certified in Foreclosure Intervention and Default courses by NeighborWorks America, the National Council of LaRaza, National Foundation of Credit, Florida Specific Certification or other approved certification provider and must maintain these certifications every three years. New or existing staff to be used as counselors must be certified within 18 months of hire or reassignment.
  8. Compliance with the State Law: The HCA and its staff must be in compliance with all applicable laws of Florida.
  9. Other Languages: The HCA must either have counselors fluent in the language that clients speak or will use interpreter services to ensure non-English speaking clients can obtain foreclosure counseling.
  10. Anti-Discrimination: The HCA will not permit discrimination against clients on the basis of their gender, race, religion, color, familial status, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, martial or parental status, sexual orientation, or physical, mental, emotional or learning disability.
  11. Compliance: The HCA will comply with quality control, compliance and evaluation of activities performed pursuant to the Contract. Any items that place the HCA on Florida Housing’s Past Due or Non-Compliance List must be cleared prior to execution of a Contract with Florida Housing or before payment for services is rendered by Florida Housing.
  12. Conflict of Interest: The HCA must certify that the staff and volunteers who will provide foreclosure counseling have no conflict(s) of interest due to relationships with servicers, real estate agencies, mortgage lenders, family members and/or other entities that may stand to benefit from particular outcomes.
  13. Compensation: The HCA will not be permitted to charge clients for any services rendered. All compensation will be disbursed by Florida Housing from the FCP Program funding.
  14. Nonprofit Status: The applicant must function as a nonprofit organization. The agency must submit evidence of nonprofit status as demonstrated by Section 501 © of the Internal Revenue Code.
  15. Compliance with Fair Housing and Civil Rights Laws: The HCA must comply with all applicable fair housing and civil rights requirements in 24 CFR 5.105 (a).
  16. Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: The HCA must affirmatively further fair housing for classes protected under the Fair Housing Act. Protected classes include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and familial status. HCAs are expected to help remedy discrimination in housing and promote fair housing rights and fair housing choice.
  17. Ineligible Participants: The HCA, including any of the agency’s directors, partners, officers, principals, or employees must not be: 1. Suspended, debarred, or otherwise restricted under any local, state or federal regulations; 2. Indicted for, or convicted of, a criminal offense that reflects upon the responsibility, integrity or ability of the agency to participate in housing counseling activities; or 3. Subject to unresolved findings because of U.S. HUD or other government audits or investigations.
  18. Alternative Formats: The HCA must be prepared to provide vital documents and information in alternative formats for persons with disabilities or make alternate accommodations for persons with disabilities.
  19. Knowledge of Existing Resolution Strategies, Specifics of Working within Florida’s Judicial Foreclosure System, and Local Housing Market: The agency’s housing counseling staff must possess a working knowledge of strategies and available programs.
  20. Community Resources: The HCA must demonstrate that it has established working relationships with private and public community resources to which it can refer clients who need help the agency cannot offer.

ID/Logins

Q: What is the HCA ID?

A: This is the FCP code that is assigned to each agency. This code was assigned to each agency and can be obtain by calling your FHCN TA provider.

Q: What is the Workgroup ID and where can I find it?

A: This is the same as your FCP code. It is needed when accessing the Learning Portal. It follows the format of FCP# # #. If you still can’t find it, contact Frances at flopez@flcounselors.org and she can get it for you.

Q: How do you get into the training portal?

A: You can get to the training portal through the link on the FCP portal homepage www.floridafcp.org or through the FHCN website.

Q: How do you gain access to the Florida Housing Portal?

A: The portal is at www.floridafcp.org.

Q: If we have a problem with our FHFC assigned username and password, who should we call?

A: Password provided by Florida Housing. Call Nicole Everett @ nicole.everett@floridahousing.org or call 850-488-4197.

Q: How is the Client ID# generated?

A: Each agency will assign a client ID that is generated by their CMS or one that is created for this program.

Q: Will Counselor Direct use this number to verify if the client has been seen by another agency?

A: No. The client ID is not used in validation that the client has already been uploaded.

Billing/Payment

Q: If we bill NFMC for the first session/intake, can we just enter the data for Education or General Counseling and not complete everything for Intake?

A: An intake should be completed on each client, however if you have billed NFMC for the intake session; you cannot double bill for the same activity.

Q: If I do Level 1 & 2 for NFMC, then continue counseling/education can I start at FCP level two or would it be level 3?

A: Under the FCP program levels are not being used. The maximum under FCP would be $450. This would include a $75 required financial management training and up to 4 general counseling sessions as needed through trial or permanent modification, other housing outcome and file closeout.

Q: If a file is billed to NFMC for a Level 1, can a HCA bill FCP for subsequent counseling sessions for the same file?

A: Yes, however the HCA cannot bill for the same activities paid for under NFMC. The file could be eligible for billing under General Counseling.

Q: The credit score is showing a dollar sign in the input screen. How do we deal with this?

A: It is a glitch that we are trying to correct. Still enter the credit score while ignoring the dollar sign.

Q: What is the billing cycle?

A: Billing must be in by the 15th of each month and you should receive payment by the 1st of the following month.

Q: May we bill more than one time a month?

A: Yes, you can upload more than once a month but it still must be in by the 15th for a payment the following 1st of the month. Florida Housing will only process one payment per month.

Q: What is the maximum amount that can be billed for one client?

A: $900 if intake has not been billed to NFMC or if the client is considered a new client and intake is billed. Otherwise, the limit is $750.

Q: When will the 2nd agency know that their client is not eligible for billing? Before or after it has been submitted for payment?

A: The system will recognize the duplicate during the upload if the client has been served by another agency.

Q: What are the qualifiers used by CD to determine if the client has been seen by another agency?

A: Name, address, phone number.

Q: How can we avoid double billing?

A: Make sure name, address, and phone number is listed.

Q: Is there a particular name we should be naming our spreadsheets?

A: No, it is up to your agency. All milestones should be combined into one spreadsheet so you only have to upload one per month. For that reason, we recommend that your spreadsheet have the month in the title to make it easier for your agency.

Q: How will payment be disbursed?

A: Direct Deposit. Each HCA must fill out an ACH form providing banking information. Contact Terry Auringer for more information at 850-488-4197

Q: Will the HCAs receive notification of direct deposits?

A: Yes, via email.

Program Requirements/Details

Q: Is there a minimum number of clients an agency must provide services to be a part of the program?

A: No

Q: How many counseling sessions are allowed under general counseling?

A: 4 general counseling sessions are allowed.

Q: Are the HCA’s required to collect a breakdown of the borrower’s homeowners insurance and taxes for each mortgage payment?

A: The FCP program requires that you collect the following information:
  • Total Monthly Housing Payment
  • Monthly Mortgage Insurance Payment Amount and
  • Monthly Homeowners Association Dues Payment Amount

Q: Should the client budget be verified?

A: Yes, HCA should provide similar proof as required for NFMC(i.e. Bills, Paystubs and Budget sheet).

Q: Are credit scores required under the FCP program?

A: Yes, at intake and closeout.

Q: Will FHFC pay for the cost of credit reports?

A: No, this is a cost that the HCA can either absorb or passed on to the client.

Q: Are there other options for obtaining a credit report if the HCA does not pull credit reports?

A: Yes, the HCA can have the client obtain the report along with a score. HCA’s must ensure consistency in scores being used. Example: If during intake the Vantage Score is used, the HCA should also obtain the Vantage Score at close out.

Q: How often are HCA required to pull credit score to show an improvement?

A: Credit scores are required at intake and closing of the file.

Q: Are credit scores required for milestone billing?

A: No.

Q: A particular agency that does not require a credit score, but it's required on the data form. How is that handled?

A: The agency needs to either develop a relationship with a credit reporting agency to obtain the scores or have the client obtain and provide the score.

Q: Are there any consequences to the HCA if the consumer is unresponsive and we are unable to obtain a final credit score for closing out the file?

A: The HCA should make every effort to obtain the final credit score at closing. Agencies authorization statements should have language which gives the agency permission to pull a final report at closing of the file.

Q: Does FHFC require that the HCA use a particular vendor for pulling credit reports?

A: No, there are many credit reporting vendors who may be used. Here are list of vendors:
  • CBC Innovis: 877-284-8322
  • Universal Credit Services: 800-358-8442
  • Credco: 800 255-0792
  • Kroll Fractual Data: 800.929.3400

Q: The credit score only tells part of the picture as an indicator of success of the Program. Are there other items that are being analyzed?

A: Yes, we understand that. Some other items include reducing re-default on mortgage, avoiding foreclosure, a change in non-mortgage debt and increases in savings accounts.

Q: Shall the HCA continue counseling even after a decision has been reached?

A: Yes, as needed and within the budget limits for the client.

Website/Portal Details

Q: Does the CounselorDirect portal have a search function which allows an agency to determine if a client has been counseled by another FCP agency?

A: No, it will be important at intake for you to ask if they have received any counseling from another agency.

Q: When downloading the Excel template for uploading client information what excel template should the HCAs use?

A: It is recommended that you use the XLSM template. This template has the macro embedded which allows the HCA to upload data.

Q: Should the HCA use a particular version of Excel to upload the information?

A: No, the version of Excel used will have no bearing on your ability to upload your data.

Q: Can you export directly from HCO or CMax to the excel spreadsheet?

A: It is possible; however both systems do not collect all data points required under the FCP program. You will need to create a custom report to accomplish this which may be more work than entering the information into the FCP portal.

Q: Will the FCP CounselorDirect system communicate with Counselor Max and HomeCounselor Online?

A: Not directly. HCAs will be required to enter all required information into the FCP web portal.

Q: If we receive an error message from CounselorDirect when inputting data, what should we do?

A: First, attempt to correct the error in the line of the spread sheet noted in the error message. If that does not work, take a screen shot of the error message and attach that image and the spreadsheet of the information you were trying to enter and forward it to Frances atflopez@flcounselors.org.We can then use this to resolve the issue when we are communicating with CounselorDirect.

Helpful Resources

Q: Where do we obtain the Area Median Income Grouping Category?

Q: Are there templates available to help with collecting the data required?

A: Yes, templates can be obtained through the FCP eLearning Portal.

Q: Who are our contacts if we have questions regarding this project?

A: All questions should be directed to: