June 23, 2018
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Consumers can get aid now to avoid foreclosure

By Russ Van Arsdale Executive director Northeast Contact, Special to the BDN

The statistics on home mortgage foreclosures are sobering. One in every 200 homes will be foreclosed upon. One child in every classroom in the United States is at risk of losing his home because his parents can’t pay their mortgage.

Most homeowners have no savings, no credit and extended families with few resources. Eighty-five percent already have missed a mortgage payment, and half have missed two payments.

The Mortgage Bankers Association came up with the figures in the first paragraph. The group figures that 250,000 new families go into foreclosure every three months.

A Freddie Mac-Roper poll showed that six in 10 homeowners wish they better understood the terms of their mortgage. More than six in 10 who are behind in their payments don’t know how lenders can help.

Numbers of completed foreclosures in Maine rose again during the first quarter of 2010, according to the state’s banks and credit unions. But those lenders also reported that the inventory of mortgage loans in the foreclosure process dropped for the first time since 2006. Also, the total number of delinquent mortgage loans dropped during the first quarter.

If you receive a foreclosure notice, you can ask for help through Maine’s court system. By sending the court and your mortgage company a letter within 20 days saying you want to keep your home, you can start a mediation process; that gives you a chance to make a deal with the company before foreclosure takes place.

A series of workshops in Maine aims to turn the above statistics around. Two workshops are set for 9 and 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, at Penquis, 262 Harlow St., Bangor. The workshops are organized by government entities and social action groups.

The Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection is taking a lead role in the effort, known as the Maine Housing Counseling Network. It pairs mortgage holders who are having problems with trained counselors who can help.

Organizers of the free workshops urge consumers to bring the following:

• Any court paperwork they have received.

• Their latest mortgage statement.

• Recent pay stubs.

• Other sources of income.

• Most recent tax return and W-2.

• Most recent bank statement.

• Monthly expenses (food, utilities, etc.).

• Hardship letter explaining reason for default.

Licensed Maine attorneys and HUD-certified counselors will be available. Once a consumer’s situation is assessed, he or she will be referred to the resource that can help.

David Stolt, chief field investigator for the bureau, says attendance at earlier clinics in Augusta, Portland and Sanford has been strong and growing.

“The clinics are a tremendous tool to engage consumers and get them involved in a process that can easily overwhelm them,” he said.

Stolt said the bureau has sent more than 10,000 foreclosure prevention packets to Mainers who are in default. He said the Maine Housing Counseling Network will offer more clinics as the need dictates. We urge consumers with mortgage concerns not to wait; get the help you need now to head off a possible foreclosure.

If you can’t attend Saturday’s session or need more information, call the Maine Foreclosure Prevention hot line, 888-664-2569 or visit www.credit.maine.gov.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, or go to http://necontact.wordpress.com.

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