Because foreclosure is a harsh legal process, homeowners threatened with foreclosure should immediately obtain legal help. Possible sources of legal help are the neighborhood legal services office, a bar association panel of pro bono attorneys, or a program providing legal assistance for the elderly. A competent attorney can determine whether there are legal defenses to a foreclosure. Too often, homeowners either postpone consulting a lawyer until after the time to assert their legal rights has passed, or walk away from their homes in frustration, leaving themselves without any equity and vulnerable to deficiency claims. For each foreclosure situation, a counselor or lawyer must carefully evaluate the homeowners` objectives and interests. Homeowners should, however, avoid "quick Fix" attorneys who may advertise or solicit through the mail from published foreclosure lists. Many times these practitioners will push the homeowner to file a bankruptcy prematurely. A bankruptcy may be necessary at some point. But, as with many things, proper timing may be critical.
Keep Current on Home Payments
The consumer should not pay credit card debts, doctor bills or other low priority debts ahead of home mortgage payments. Skipping payments on low priority debts for several months will have little or no bad consequences, but skip one or two home mortgage payments, and the consumer risks losing the home. Sometimes the default can usually be cured by simply paying the amount in arrears.
Apply for Income Maintenance, Tax Abatement and Public Assistance Programs
Benefits provided by government and non-profit agencies are a key source of assistance for individuals in financial distress. These resources can help older homeowners free their income for home payments. Benefit programs to apply for can include fuel assistance and weatherization assistance, food stamps and emergency home repair programs. Most municipalities also offer property tax abatements for reasons of age or hardship. For very low income homeowners, particularly those who are recently widowed, advocates should also determine the homeowner`s eligibility for Supplemental Security Income. The process of obtaining these benefits is often slow and difficult. When necessary, shepherd individuals` applications through the bureaucratic maze, ensuring that application procedures are understood and that all documentation is properly assembled and delivered.
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