Free Counseling in California for Struggling Homeowners

If you are facing foreclosure in California, you can get free help from a HUD-approved housing counselor.

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If you are a homeowner facing foreclosure, a housing counselor can help you figure out the best course of action for your particular situation. Read on to learn more about how to get free help if you are a homeowner struggling to make mortgage payments in California.

The California Housing Finance Agency and Keep Your Home California

The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA), which was established in 1975, provides financing for low and moderate-income homeowners in California. With approval from the U.S. Treasury Department and funded by the Hardest Hit Fund, CalHFA implemented the Keep Your Home California program to provide assistance to eligible California homeowners who are facing foreclosure.

The CalHFA Mortgage Assistance Corporation (CalHFA MAC) administers the various programs under Keep Your Home California, which include:

  • The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, which provides mortgage payment assistance to unemployed homeowners.
  • The Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program, which helps homeowners catch up on missed payments.
  • The Principal Reduction Program, which provides funds to underwater homeowners to pay down the principal balance of a mortgage loan.
  • The Transition Assistance Program, which assists homeowners who are undergoing a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure transition to new housing. (See our Short Sales and Deeds in Lieu of Foreclosure area for more information on these topics.)

These programs are designed to provide flexibility in responding to a borrower’s individual needs and circumstances.

To determine which program is best suited for you, you can receive free counseling from a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved counseling agency.

Who Should Meet With a Housing Counselor

Free counseling is available to homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure. If you have either fallen behind on your mortgage payments or are in danger of falling behind on payments, you can most likely benefit from HUD-approved housing counseling.

A counselor can provide you with the information and assistance you need to avoid foreclosure. For example, a counselor will help you figure out if you qualify for any of the Keep Your Home California programs or any other foreclosure avoidance programs, such as those under the federal government’s Making Home Affordable Program, like the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).

(To learn about HAMP and other government programs for distressed homeowners, visit Nolo's Government Foreclosure Prevention Programs area. To learn about the various Keep Your Home California programs, visit our California Foreclosure Law Center.)

Counselors can provide an overview of program guidelines, timelines, and requirements, as well as recommend a course of action that is most appropriate for your unique situation.

How to Obtain Free Housing Counseling

You can arrange to speak to a housing counselor by contacting one of the HUD-approved counseling agencies in your area.

To find counseling agencies in your county, go to www.keepyourhomecalifornia.org and click on “Meet With a Counselor” at the bottom of the page. This will take you to a webpage where you can elect to see a full list of all counseling agencies in California or you can view just those associated with your particular county.

Call Your Mortgage Servicer

In addition to seeking help from a housing counselor, you should also call your loan servicer directly if you have missed a payment or are concerned about an imminent foreclosure. This way you can be evaluated immediately for an alternative to foreclosure. (A mortgage servicer is the company that collects and manages your mortgage payments.)

If you are having trouble getting a response from your servicer regarding loss mitigation and foreclosure avoidance options, a housing counselor may be able to help you with that as well.

See Nolo’s Alternatives to Foreclosure section to learn about different loss mitigation options.

For More Information

CalHFA recently announced that it received a $1.3 million grant that will help provide counseling for another 6,100 homeowners (in addition to the over 76,000 families that have received assistance since 2008).

To learn more about signing up for counseling or to get more information about foreclosure prevention assistance for California homeowners, go to www.keepyourhomecalifornia.org.

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