Homeowners facing foreclosure have a new ally

Foreclosure sign outside house

According to the Wall Street Journal, judges are finding procedural errors that help borrowers save their homes -- or at least buy a little time.

Last fall, for example, federal judges in Ohio discovered that many of the trusts that keep mortgages regularly start foreclosure proceedings before they've obtained the legal right to do so.

Since then, these judges have been joined by others in states like New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts who have dismissed many cases because they lacked proper documentation.

The lender always has a chance to fix paperwork flaws and refile the foreclosure, but the delay also gives homeowners more time to prevent it.

Courts in Ohio and Pennsylvania have started forcing loan holders that have initiated foreclosure lawsuits to negotiate with borrowers.

Even bankruptcy judges are cracking down by requiring creditors to prove they own the loans.

The judges' work might not help all homeowners -- half of the states don't require judicial approval to start the foreclosure process. But in some areas, judges' efforts are providing tapped-out homeowners a little assistance.