Kenneth smith


The following are local organizations that you can contact for housing counseling assistance if litigation is unnecessary.


Foreclosure Defense Resources


Bankruptcy Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do I need an attorney?
A: The courts of our nation have become very complex, and it can be very difficult for people to find their way through the system without special training. Even when judges are understanding, trying to represent yourself can cause undue delay in the resolution of your case, and even small procedural errors can be very damaging to the outcome of a case. In most cases, the best way to protect your rights is to hire an attorney.


Q: What are your fees for legal services?
A: It varies. I charge a fee of $350.00 for a one-hour initial consultations regarding foreclosure defense, possible mediations under the FFA and any sort of possible litigation or negotiation. In that hour we can typically discover the essential facts of your case, tell you the do's and don'ts, explain your rights as well as your responsibilities, interactively discuss your options and what you may realistically hope to achieve, advise as to the available courses of action, and discuss the likely costs. In some circumstances, it is possible for a flat fee to be set for a particular task. Most of Ms. Huelsman’s litigation is done on a contingency fee basis and clients are only responsible for costs.  Those contingency fee cases often also involve claims under the Washington Consumer Protection Act, which may permit clients to recover their attorneys fees and costs from the defendants.   


In other situations, such as representation in foreclosure mediations, there will be a retainer fee deposit and work will be billed on an hourly basis.  Each case and client is different, as are opposing parties and counsel.  I cannot always predict or control the amount of work that will be required in your case, but I can typically estimate a likely fee range based on experience. We can discuss which would be the most effective approach given your case.  Oftentimes, people who come to see me only need to have the one consultation and we decide together that no further action in which I am involved is needed. 


I have a separate process for consultation with persons who only want to discuss a possible bankruptcy.  I do not charge for a bankruptcy consultation, but we will only discussing bankruptcy issues.  If you also have issues that may need litigation, we can have a separate consultation about those issues. 


Q: What geographic areas do you cover?
A: I service all of King County and most of Western Washington.  I will do consultations by telephone, if necessary, although I prefer to meet people in person because the meetings become more effective in a face to face setting. 


Q: Do you accept personal checks or credit cards?
A:  I only accept cash, money order or cashier checks as payment for the initial consultation. After the initial consultation, a variety of payment options are accepted.




Q: What is Predatory Lending?
A. Predatory lending refers to unconscionable lending practices that take advantage of unsuspecting borrowers. The term also refers to the practice of convincing borrowers to agree to unfair and abusive loan terms. Such loans could take place either through outright deception or through aggressive sales tactics, taking advantage of borrowers' lack of understanding of extremely complicated transactions.  This often leads to home owners and buyers incurring unreasonable fees and costs while borrowing money, strips borrowers of home equity and threatens families with bankruptcy and foreclosure.


Q. What are the possible signs of Predatory Lending?
A. Abusive loan practices can include:
- Excessive closing costs;
- Not receiving loan disclosure documents from either the lender and/or broker;
- Final loan terms do not match the terms initially disclosed;
- Lender or Broker pressuring you to close fast;
- Lender or Broker claiming that they are the only one able to get your loan closed;
- Charging unreasonably high interest rates and fees, including prepayment penalties;
- Issuing loan payoff statements full of inflated and improper fees;
- Failing to properly and timely credit loan payments;
- Charging escrow fees not provided for in lending documents;
- Making loans that the consumer clearly cannot afford;
- Breaking verbal promises or “bait and switch” at closing;
- Loans with payments that start low and go high;
- Loans with undisclosed balloon payments;
- Obtaining inflated appraisals to loan more than a home is worth;
- Coaching you to lie or be dishonest on your loan application;
- Putting you into a “stated income” or “no document” loan;
- Loan “flipping” or constant refinancing;
- “Hard money” lending; or
- Steering you to a high cost loan when you qualify for a lower one.


Q: Am I a victim of Predatory Lending?
A: Perhaps. Do you recognize any of the signs above? Did you once have equity in your home but now owe more than it is worth? Are you in danger of foreclosure? If you are, there is a good chance you are victim of illegal predatory lending Practices, and I may be to help.  However, you need to understand that the practices described above are not directly actionable.  What is important are the disclosures that you received or did not receive during the loan process.  You MUST obtain a LEGAL analysis by a competent lawyer who has been litigating these types of cases for years before you can determine whether or not you have a viable predatory lending claim(s).  DO NOT OBTAIN A SO-CALLED” FORENSIC AUDIT” of your loan documents.  They are entirely unnecessary and are a waste of money.  Only a lawyer who is licensed to practice in Washington State) or in the state in which the property is located) can provide you with any analysis of possible valid legal claims. 


Q. How can you help me?
A. There are federal and state laws available to help consumers who have been victimized by predatory lending, foreclosure rescue scams and/or other foreclosure defense issues.  Some of the laws include the federal Truth and Lending Act, HOEPA, RESPA, Equal Credit Opportunity Act and various state unfair and deceptive practices laws.


Q. What are other possible types of predatory conduct?
A. Companies that portray themselves as foreclosure rescue firms or having expertise about loan modification and foreclosure defense who just opened up shop in the last couple of years.  Also beware of lawyers and others who hold themselves out as having expertise that they do not possess.  Beware of those who claim to be experts in “real estate” law who do not generally have any “expertise” in lending and/or foreclosure laws.  The first indication that these persons may lack expertise is if they suggest that you pay for a “forensic audit”.    


Q. Do I have rights if the company servicing my loan (the company collecting my monthly mortgage payment) does not properly credit my account for payments that I sent?
A. Yes, there are federal and state laws available to protect consumers from companies that do not adequately service the mortgage loans of consumers.  Most of time this will be resolved only through litigation. 




Q: What is a consumer bankruptcy case? What are the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13?
A: Chapter 7 allows you to eliminate all of your debt in most instances. A trustee will be appointed to determine if any of your assets should be sold. However, most Chapter 7 debtors can protect all of their assets. For debtors who make more than the state median income and fail to qualify for Chapter 7 under a series of rather complex financial tests, Chapter 13 is still available. Under Chapter 13, you pay a certain portion of your income to a trustee for a period of years from which your creditors are paid all or some of what you owe them.  At the end of a Chapter 13 case, the remainder of your debt, with the exception of secured debt and some other debt such as student loans and some tax debt, will be discharged. 


Q: When shouldn’t someone file for bankruptcy?
A: In general, most people shouldn’t file for bankruptcy if they have adequate financial resources to renegotiate their debts and pay them. The basic standard is negative cash flow or, simply stated, an inability to pay your debts and bills as they become due. If you can’t pay your debts or your bills as they come due, you are bankrupt.


Q: Is it possible for someone to adequately represent themselves in a bankruptcy?
A: It is possible to file a bankruptcy on your own. The problem is that even if you can fill out the paperwork, generally speaking you’all need an attorney to deal with the court proceedings. It is very difficult and doing it yourself is not recommended.


I’ve seen many instances where people have filed bankruptcies on their own. Later, they’ll come to me and the petition is filed so incorrectly that it takes more effort to straighten them out than it’s worth. What we usually do is have the bankruptcy dismissed, pay a second filing fee and start all over again. It’s just a complicated detailed statute – and if you make any mistakes, your case can be dismissed and/or any discharge you received could be revoked.  You might also be subject to criminal penalties if you are untruthful about the contents of your bankruptcy filing.


Q: How much will this cost?
A: I do not charge for a bankruptcy consultation, but we will only discussing bankruptcy issues.  If you also have issues that may need litigation, we can have a separate consultation about those issues. 


The cost for filing a bankruptcy vary and are usually paid on a flat fee basis. With Chapter 13 cases, there can sometimes be additional fees incurred if the case requires extra work, but those fees are paid through the Chapter 13 Plan. My prices vary depending on the difficulty of the case, but I can give you an estimate during your initial consultation. To schedule a free bankruptcy consultation, contact me today.


Q: Will I lose my house or car?
A: Not necessarily. In most cases, you can keep your house from being foreclosed upon by getting current on the payments through the payment plan in a Chapter 13 or through other means in a Chapter 7, and you may keep your car from being repossessed through reaffirmation or staying current on those payments before and after the bankruptcy filing. The answer will depend upon your personal situation and the date on which you obtained your car loan.  You also will be able to keep your qualified retirement accounts in almost every case.


Q: Can I get credit again?
A: Actually, you will be surprised how quickly you can get credit again. Some credit card companies will solicit you to keep your credit card and reaffirm your debt with them. This may or may not be a good idea for you. I will advise you about your particular case.  In Chapter 7 cases, most people are solicited for new, secured credit cards shortly after receiving a discharge.  I suggest that you only enter those new credit agreements very carefully.  Of course, to the extent that you have been making current payments on your house and car loans, those payments will help you to re-establish credit as well. 


Q: Will my creditors keep bothering me?
A: Once you hire me, your creditors no longer can contact you. I will determine whether you have a potential claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act if your creditors have been particularly aggressive or hostile toward you.


Q: Having done this for so long, what are some of the common myths that you’ve heard regarding filing for bankruptcy?
A: The most common myth is that “you’ll never be able to get credit again.” This is absolutely false. It is generally more beneficial for someone who’s behind on his or her bills and has a low credit score to file bankruptcy, get a clean state and start all over again. Another myth is that they won’t be able to get a good job. Again, not true.


Basically, filing for bankruptcy is the exercise of a federal constitutional right. You have a right to file bankruptcy. In a capitalist society, it is necessary to have this safety valve for individuals and corporations. It helps society renew itself.


Many people feel that something bad will happen to them such as they’ll go to jail or all of their assets will be taken away. Bankruptcy is designed to help people, not to hurt them. Anyone with questions should consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Most bankruptcy attorneys will give them a free consultation and the process is not painful. The attorney does the paperwork. The client just provides the documentation and information for the lawyer, although, it is important to remember that the client is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the information provided to the attorney. 


There should be no stigma attached to filing for bankruptcy. Millions of people have filed bankruptcy every year. Generally speaking, the people who file for bankruptcy and use a good bankruptcy attorney will have better credit within six months to a year and can obtain credit cards and car loans. The ability to obtain a new home loan may take a bit longer, but ultimately people are able to get those loans within a few years after filing, especially when existing home loans are paid during the bankruptcy proceeding.