Montgomery County program can help if you’re behind on condo, homeowners dues

November 8, 2013

Are you having problems paying your condominium or homeowners association dues? If you have a reverse mortgage, can you afford to pay your real estate tax? If you are a resident in Montgomery County, there is a program that can provide you with some assistance.

It is called Home Savers and is offered by Asian American Homeownership Counseling, a nonprofit organization approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Song Hutchins, president and chief executive of the organization, says Home Savers can assist in negotiating loan modifications with your mortgage lender. Moreover, the program offers an interest free, micro-loan up to $4,000 for eligible county residents. (The loan will have to be repaid within two years, though extensions can be obtained depending on your financial situation.)

There are several conditions. First, your mortgage payments must be current. Second, you must attend two financial education orientations — one involving money management and the other focusing on thoroughly understanding credit.

Moreover, the property must be the primary residence. Quynh Nguyen, a certified housing counselor at AAHC, said there also is an income restriction. “Generally, if you are making more than the Montgomery County medium income, you are not eligible,” she said. “For example, for a family of four it is $107,000 and $79,000 for a family of two. However, if you can demonstrate financial hardship, we can make an exception.”

The Home Savers program started in July 2012. Montgomery County has funded it, and all loans must be made by the end of this year. “We are already getting some of the loans paid back, and those funds will be used to assist other homeowners in need,” Nguyen said.

Hutchins said she thinks that the program will be extended in the county and will be available in surrounding area jurisdictions, such as Prince George’s and the District.

In addition to the Home Savers program, AAHC provides counseling on housing-related issues, including foreclosure intervention; scam, fraud and identity-theft prevention; rental assistance; and reverse mortgage education. The organization has bilingual counselors proficient in Chinese-Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.

But beware: There are many “home savers” that — unlike AAHC — are not legitimate and prey on unsuspecting and desperate homeowners.

If you are approached by someone claiming that he or she will save your home or modify your loan, do not sign anything. Under no circumstances should you give the person any money without checking his or her references.

Your local government and the Better Business Bureau may be able to assist. Additionally, look up the company on the Internet; often, you can find helpful information on the Web.

For more information about the Montgomery Home Saver, go to www.aa-hc.org or call (301) 760-7636.

Benny L. Kass is a Washington lawyer. This column is not legal advice and should not be acted upon without obtaining legal counsel. For a free copy of the booklet “A Guide to Settlement on Your New Home,” send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Benny L. Kass, 1050 17th St. NW, Suite 1100, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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