Published July 2009 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd HELP FOR HOMEOWNERS Home foreclosures are affecting West Virginians from every walk of life in nearly every county. Some borrowers made poor choices at the time of purchase, like purchasing homes they could not afford, or using equity from their homes to finance other expenses. However, many West Virginians facing foreclosure have experienced job loss, have been struggling to pay medical bills, or have been the victims of unscrupulous lending practices. What follows is some information that may be of assistance to homeowners who are trying to make ends meet. If you are already at risk of delinquency on your mortgage or are already in foreclosure, you need to take immediate action. Gather financial documents and contact your mortgage lenders. Banks or mortgage lenders may provide the homeowner with specific information about possible options available. In addition to contacting their lenders, homeowners may also wish to contact the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) at 1-(800)-CALL-FHA (225-5342). Officials of the FHA may be able to help in determining eligibility for assistance with individual mortgages. If homeowners would like to speak with housing counselors approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they may visit the HUD website at http://www.hud.gov for a list of counselors in specific areas. For additional assistance, officials of HUD recommend that those in need of assistance call 1-888-995-HOPE (4673). West Virginians seeking assistance with their mortgages may also contact the Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly known as Fannie Mae, at 1-800-7FANNIE. To determine if specific mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae, visit their website at www. janniemae.com/loanlookup. Likewise, to determine if specific mortgages are owned by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as Freddie Mac, homeowners may call 1-800-FREDDIE, or visit the Freddie Mac website at www.freddiemac.com/mymortgage. For general information and updates concerning housing assistance programs, you can also visit www.MakingHomeAfjordable.gov, and www.FinancialStabilizy.gov. Information about mortgage assistance is free, and homeowners should beware of any organization that tries to charge fees for assistance with mortgages. Make sure never to sign your property deed over to any organization or individual promising to "save the home." In addition, never make your mortgage payments to anyone other than your mortgage company, unless the company has approved it. Even when times are tough, I know that West Virginians will continue to work hard to help their friends and family overcome seemingly unconquerable obstacles.