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(MCT)—Struggling to make your mortgage payments? Already in default?

Housing counselors say the most important advice is not to wait to get help. Read the notices and contact your lender or loan servicer to discuss your situation. Putting off these talks will likely make things worse.

And also know your rights:

—You do not have to miss a payment to qualify for the U.S. Home Affordable Modification Program, known as HAMP.

—Under HAMP, a bank is not to proceed with a foreclosure sale until a borrower has been evaluated for HAMP, and if eligible, an offer has been made.

—To learn more about HAMP, go to http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/. Housing counselors and lenders can tell you of other programs or payment alternatives.

—Housing counselors are certified to give free advice about finances and are to know what they’re doing, says Greg Sterns, financial education manager at Lighthouse of Oakland County in Pontiac, Michigan, a nonprofit that offers housing and financial counseling.

Sterns said housing counselors also may refer borrowers to other free legal services, as well.

(c) 2011, Detroit Free Press.

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