HAMP Help for Unemployed Homeowners

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Help for struggling homeownersAre you unemployed and trying to find a way to keep your home? As of July, help is available from the Home Affordable Unemployment Program (HAUP). If you qualify for the program your mortgage payment could be suspended or reduced, depending on your financial situation.

Here are the basic eligibility requirements for HAUP:

  • You must own a one- to four-unit property and live in one of the units as your principal residence.
  • The mortgage on that property must be a first lien originated on or before Jan. 1, 2009.
  • The current unpaid balance of the mortgage is equal to or less than $729,750.
  • Your mortgage loan is in default or default is "reasonably foreseeable."
  • Your mortgage has not been modified by HAMP or you have not received previous help from this program.
  • You must seek help before three full mortgage payments are due and unpaid.
  • You must prove that you are unemployed and document your unemployment benefits.

The servicer can also require that you have been on unemployment benefits for at least three months before your forbearance period can begin.
In order to apply for this program, your servicer must be a participant in the government's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). You can check the HAMP website to find out if your servicer is a participant. If your servicer is on the list, then you can phone, e-mail or write your servicer. Even before contacting your servicer you may want to seek help from a HUD Foreclosure Avoidance Counselor, who can help you through the process.

Successful applicants will be eligible for at least three months of mortgage payment forbearance and that could be extended by your servicer. Extensions are considered on a case-by-case basis. As a participant in the program, your monthly payment must be reduced to no more than 31 percent of your gross monthly household income.

If you get a new job during the forbearance period, you must notify your servicer immediately. If you don't get a job, your lender will review your case for a possible extension. About 30 days before the end of your forbearance period, you will receive a package to request a HAMP modification. Once you get a job, you will be eligible to apply for a HAMP modification.

If your servicer determines that you are not eligible for HAUP, he then will consider whether you are eligible for another modification program. If you don't meet eligibility for any of the modification programs, you may be referred to the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA).

Don't try to walk through the HAMP and HAUP maze alone. Seek help from a foreclosure counselor who understands the requirements and paperwork. Your chance of success is much greater with a counselor than if you try to make it alone.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books, including "The 250 Questions You Should Ask to Avoid Foreclosure."

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