New help available for unemployed homeowners

Linda Benedict, Nye, Gloria

News Release Distributed 07/27/10

Starting in August, a new federal program will be available that provides help for homeowners who have become unemployed so they can temporarily reduce or suspend their mortgage payments while they seek employment, according to Gloria Nye, LSU AgCenter extension family economist.

Through the national Making Home Affordable program, local mortgage servicers can temporarily suspend payments in full or reduce payments to no more than 31 percent of the homeowner’s gross monthly income, even if that income is solely from unemployment.

“There is no cost to apply for this program,” Nye said. “Check with your mortgage servicer to see if you qualify.”

Here are some of the criteria homeowners must meet to qualify for this program:

– The house must be your primary residence.

– You are not more than three months behind in your payments.

– You are unemployed and can document that you are receiving unemployment benefits.

– The first mortgage was originated on or before Jan. 1, 2009.

– The unpaid mortgage balance must be equal to or less than $729,750 for a one-unit property.

– The homeowner was ineligible for a Home Affordable Modification.

“Mortgage servicers may not initiate foreclosure proceedings or conduct a foreclosure sale while a homeowner is being evaluated for this unemployment program,” Nye said.

If you need assistance in applying for this program, call toll-free 888-995-HOPE (4673) to speak to a HUD-approved housing counselor.

“Be aware that there are some unscrupulous mortgage servicers who may try to scare you into sending them a payment by telling you they are giving your account to collections immediately, that you will incur late fees or fines, that you will lose your house to foreclosure or ruin your credit, that you should sell something, use your savings or contact relatives or friends to bail you out.

“If this mortgage servicer heavy-handedness happens to you, get the individual’s name and number, then call a HUD-approved counselor at 888-995-HOPE to get help working with your mortgage company,” Nye said.

There is also a new Second Lien Modification Program available to lower payments on a homeowner’s second mortgage, Nye said.

For more specific information and eligibility criteria for these two new mortgage modification programs for unemployed homeowners, go to www.makinghomeaffordable.gov and click on “Help for Unemployed Homeowners.”

Linda Foster Benedict
1/4/2011 1:10:18 AM
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