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Buying a home? Need mortgage help? Call the union

Are you buying a home? Do you own a home but are having a hard time making your mortgage payments? If so, MELS, the Municipal Employees Legal Services at DC 37, can help.

Contact MELS before signing a contract or mortgage to buy a house or co-op. MELS lawyers represent eligible members in all stages of a home purchase.

“Call us sooner rather than later,” says Liz Riday, supervising attorney of the Real Estate Unit. “For anyone who has begun a search for a home, we can answer questions and provide do’s and don’ts over the telephone.” MELS also gives advice about reverse mortgages.

Generally speaking, the housing market has stabilized, which means home prices are on the rise, particularly in New York City.

The direction of housing policies under President Donald J. Trump is a big question mark. Within days of being inaugurated, he put on hold a new Obama Administration regulation that would lower the price of mortgage insurance that many homeowners are required to pay. Trump’s action could cost the average homeowner about $100 per month.

Lending rules put in place under President Barack Obama have eliminated many of the practices that got homeowners in trouble, such as no-documentation loans and balloon mortgages with low teaser rates that lead to higher monthly payments down the line.

In spite of positive changes in the real estate market, MELS lawyers continue to assist many homeowners who are at risk of falling behind on their mortgages or have been sued in foreclosure.

“Anyone who is having difficulty paying the mortgage should call MELS immediately,” said Carla Latty, supervising attorney of the Consumer Unit. Latty noted that MELS can help members prioritize their debts. “It is always better to pay your mortgage first,” she said, “and seek our assistance in dealing with other debts such as credit cards, or even to consider bankruptcy, which may save your home.”

MELS has helped numerous homeowners obtain mortgage modifications to make their payments affordable. Latty noted that the federal “HAMP” modification program has expired, but she said that other modification programs may be in place to assist our members.

“Despite the current uncertainty, we hope that homeowners who are having difficulties may still be able to obtain a mortgage modification,” Latty said.

The bottom line: Call MELS at 212-815-1111.

MELS Associate Director Robert A. Martin and Supervising Attorney Carla Latty contributed to this article.