I am a licensed California attorney, and a South Florida property owner. Recently I've been solicited multiple times by the Abitz Law Group, and two other Florida "law firms", each seeking to prepare a HAMP loan modification application for my Florida property... in exchange for an up-front fee of a few
thousand dollars. Despite its limited operating history and mixed reviews on www.trustlink.org, the firm currently has an A+ rating from the BBB. For this reason, I feel it is especially important to share my experience with other consumers...
With very narrow exception, even attorneys may NOT charge up-front fees
for loan modification services under Florida law. My conversation with a
gentleman from the Abitz Law Group"sales team" and subsequent investigation indicates that
this may be a sham law firm organized for the purpose of evading state and
federal laws prohibiting the collection of up-front fees for loan modification and other foreclosure-related services.
Florida's Office of Financial Regulation confirms that Abitz Law Group
is NOT a licensed mortgage brokerage business, and has no record of any
licensed broker employed by the firm, despite state law that requires any providers of loan modifications to be so licensed. Although the attorney affiliated with this firm may be engaged in fully legitimate and competent legal representation of clients in matters other than loan modifications, if the attorney is aware of or complicit in operating a mortgage brokerage busine in the firm's name, such conduct would undoubtedly violate a majority of our profession's ethical tenets, in addition to state and federal laws.
Victims of law firm or attorney misconduct should file complaints the Better Business Bureau (http://seflorida.app.bbb.org/filecomplaint) and report the attorney to the Florida Bar (or bar association in your state). The procedures are very simple and can be done online, or at most in a brief one-page form. Additionally, all consumers that have been solicited or paid up-front for a loan modification should report suspicious business practices to the FTC, the Florida Attorney General (http://www.myfloridalegal.com/mortgagefraud) and Florida's Office of Financial Regulation (link to complaint form: http://www.flofr.com/Finance/CompFormDownload.htm).
Finally, I encourage anyone in this position to speak out about your experience anywhere and everywhere possible--truthfully, of course. Information is the best way to help other consumers and stop bad business practices... It's an added bonus that, many times the loudest voice gets the refund. If a law firm or business threatens you in any way, report this as well. Threats of retaliation are another cheap intimidation tactic used to silence defrauded consumers. As long as you're truthful, you CANNOT be sued or otherwise retaliated against for negative publicity, bad
reviews, filing a bar or BBB complaint, etc.