Time is running out for two federal programs designed to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure. The programs have already helped thousands of families in the Chicago area modify or refinance their mortgages, but the relief is scheduled to expire December 31.
Consumers who qualify for the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) could save hundreds of dollars each month. Both programs were created during the height of the country’s foreclosure crisis.
According to Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS), a non-profit counseling organization that works with businesses, government and residents to revitalize Chicago’s low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods, 27,639 Chicago-area homeowners are eligible for the programs.
“It’s important that homeowners not delay in seeking assistance through these federal programs,” said Karen Woods, director of homeownership services for NHS.
Theresa Raborn of Midlothian said she will be certainly looking into options like NHS as she fights to save her home, which also serves as a homeschool for her three daughters.
“If I lose my house I can’t work and my kids will lose their school and they’ll lose their home,” Raborn said.
Raborn said she and her husband spent twelve months correcting an issue with their home’s escrow. She said since they met their obligation, the lender has put some of her recent house payments in an unapplied account, where partial payments are held until they can be applied later. Raborn said she is being unnecessarily charged late fees.
“There was plenty of money in that unapplied (account) to make a full payment,” Raborn said. “This has snowballed to the point to where we’re behind on everything.”
Raborn said she is spending so much time dealing with the lender, she has had to limit her homeschool teaching. She also said her family now relies on a food bank.
“Our kids were doing great, but because of all of the stress in the house, it’s put stress on them,” Raborn said.
Freedom Mortgage said it graciously accommodated its customer and responded with a viable solution when the Raborns made additional requests.
However, Raborn rejected the terms, including, she said, a provision that would have required her to keep the matter private.
“I’m willing to be open to anything that they bring before me but I will not sign away my rights to speak and to associate in order to get a resolution,” Raborn said.
Housing counseling organizations that help homeowners learn more about HAMP and HARP said help is available to homeowners falling behind on payments or at odds with a lender.
“There are a lot of tools available to homeowners that they might not be aware of that we can help connect them with and help navigate the process,” Woods said.
Freedom Mortgage said it values and respects each and every customer. The company also said it has reversed the late charges and refunded the Raborns. A spokesperson also said Freedom has since responded to the customer and has tried to resolve again with good faith.
Raborn said she is waiting on another agreement from Freedom Mortgage.