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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — With shock waves from the subprime lending crisis reverberating around the world, military officials say help is available for servicemembers having mortgage troubles.

“This is serious business,” Capt. Greg Belanger, commander of the Naval Legal Service Office Pacific, said in an e-mail Friday.

Every branch of the military has a judge advocate general’s corps that provides confidential legal assistance to servicemembers and their family members.

And some may need mortgage help.

According to a study by First American CoreLogic, a firm that tracks mortgage risk, Americans borrowed $2.2 trillion in adjustable loans from 2004 through 2006.

As the introductory rates are reset to higher rates, the study predicts, an additional 1.1 million home foreclosures will occur during the next six years.

Servicemembers facing difficulties from resetting mortgage rates should immediately establish an open and honest line of communication with their creditors and seek legal assistance, Navy legal service officer Lt. Graham Winegeart said.

Winegeart stressed that creditors need to know what you can afford to pay and when you are going to pay it and need assurance that you will live up to your financial obligations.

“This shows that you are serious about your situation and that you want to be responsible,” Winegeart said. “This is important, because your creditor decides whether or not foreclosure proceedings will be initiated.”

Winegeart said in certain circumstances you can compel a creditor to decrease your interest rate, modify payment terms or stop foreclosure sales.

“An attorney can help you determine the protections for which you qualify and which would benefit you,” he said. “Your situation is not hopeless.”

Winegeart also warned that before using companies who advertise they can help solve foreclosure problems, individuals first should seek legal assistance.

While many of the companies are reputable, Winegeart said, scams are out there.

“Such schemers have been known to set up transactions through which you end up losing your home to the company ‘helping’ you and owing them rent,” he said. “Even the reputable companies may be for-profit ventures.”

But, he said, “Why spend the money that you so desperately need to pay your home loan when free resources are available to you?”

The bottom line, Winegeart said, is to take advantage of those resources.

“While you may not be able to save your home, you will come out of the process in the best financial condition possible,” he said.

Here are some tips to survive a personal mortgage crisis

To find the nearest military legal assistance office or contact your state’s bar association for information about private attorneys, visit http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/.

To begin dealing with your financial situation, gather all of your financial and banking records, loan documents and your credit reports. You may be able to obtain your credit reports free by visiting http://www.ftc.gov/freereports.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can provide resources regarding foreclosure counseling at www.hud.gov/foreclosure/index.cfm.

To find another home lender to seek better terms, military members can visit www.homeloans.va.gov or the Department of Veterans Affairs office for your state of legal residence or the state in which your home is located.

Additional opportunities may be available to military and civilians through the Federal Housing Administration at www.fha.gov.

From staff reports


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