911 for foreclosure victims

State expands hot line to traditional mortgage holders in danger of default.

Staff WriterSeptember 16, 2009 

  • Any North Carolina homeowner who is falling behind on mortgage payments can now call a toll-free number, 866-234-4857, and receive foreclosure assistance at no cost from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Homeowners can also visit the project's Web site at www.fightncforeclosure.org.

A program set up last year to help North Carolina homeowners with subprime loans avoid foreclosure has been expanded to include those with traditional mortgages.

The State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project lets homeowners call a toll-free number and receive counseling and legal advice through a network of state and local government agencies and nonprofit agencies.

Mark Pearce, state chief deputy commissioner of banks, said Tuesday that North Carolina's foreclosure crisis has spread far beyond people who took on mortgages at high interest rates. Foreclosure filings over the first eight months of the year totaled just under 40,000 and are up 7 percent over the same period last year. Pearce said 60 percent of the foreclosure filings in the state now involve prime loans.

Homeowners are encouraged to call the toll-free number when they begin struggling with mortgage payments, rather than waiting until foreclosure is imminent.

The foreclosure prevention project, created by the General Assembly, began in November. It has counseled 5,710 homeowners and prevented 1,855 foreclosures, according to a report sent to legislators.

The state plans to run TV ads, which will air in the Triangle through December, that encourage beleaguered homeowners to call and get assistance. Partner agencies in the prevention project hope to raise money to run ads in other markets.

It's against the law in North Carolina to charge an upfront fee for foreclosure assistance. The Attorney General's Office has received 353 complaints about mortgage-assistance scams this year, up from seven in all of 2007.

Cooper said many homeowners are simply having trouble finding the person who can make decisions about their loans, because their mortgage has been bundled with other mortgages and resold to investors.

"All too often," Pearce said, "homeowners fall through the cracks in the system."

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