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When you bought your home, you expected to be able to pay your mortgage on time, but a job loss, pay cut, divorce, illness, injury or death in the family might have left you unable to cover all your expenses. If you’ve received a dreaded foreclosure notice, you might not want to talk to your lender, but that is exactly what you should do—immediately. Your lender would rather continue to receive payments from you, even smaller ones, than take your house in foreclosure, sell it and possibly lose money.

Have an Honest Discussion
Call your lender and explain your financial situation and what led to it. Discuss all your current expenses and your household income. The lender will probably ask you to write a letter describing your circumstances and to provide supporting documentation, such as pay stubs, tax returns and credit card/loan statements.

Look for a Solution
Once the lender has an accurate view of your financial circumstances, they can try to help. The loan servicer might be willing to lower your interest rate, increase the length of your mortgage repayment period or even forgive some of the principal.

You might be able to apply for assistance from the federal government, as well. The Home Affordable Modification Program gives lenders incentives to lower payments for customers who are behind on their mortgage payments. The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program can give the lender an incentive to agree to a short sale, which would allow you to sell your house for less than it’s worth. The government could also provide an incentive for the lender to accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure, which means that you could transfer ownership of the house to the lender to get out from under the weight of the mortgage.

Understand the Process and Protect Your Rights
Foreclosure proceedings vary from state to state. In fact, the foreclosure may be processed in the court system or through a nonjudicial process. The length of the process will depend on state laws.

If you believe the lender has made an error and you’re actually not behind on your payments, provide financial records to support your position. An attorney can help you navigate the process, resolve a dispute or reach an agreement with the lender to avoid foreclosure.

You might be able to work with a company that helps homeowners facing foreclosure, but be aware that some of the businesses you see advertised could be scams. Before you agree to work with a company that says it can help you avoid foreclosure, conduct research to find out if consumers have filed complaints related to unethical practices or fraud.

Act Immediately
No homeowner wants to face the prospect of foreclosure, but if you receive a notice, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. Contact your lender and be honest about your situation so you can either stay in your home or let it go while avoiding serious damage to your credit.

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