Louisiana Attorney General Offers Consumer Guide to Home Mortgages
In an effort to empower consumers and to help first time homebuyers and current homeowners avoid mortgage trouble, Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell today announced the launch of a new publication, the “Mortgage Guide.”
“A mortgage is the largest and most serious financial obligation that most consumers ever make,” said Attorney General Caldwell. “The mortgage process is complicated, and in addition to the financial and legal issues, some of the parties involved in the process may not always act in the best interest of the consumer. That’s why understanding key mortgage terms, options, and payments can prevent homeowners from losing their homes.”
Attorney General Caldwell said the mortgage guide contains information on a variety of topics ranging from mortgages, transfers, foreclosures, abusive lending practices, and fraud.
“Scam artists use a variety of tactics to find homeowners in distress, so it’s important for consumers to know how to protect themselves,” Attorney General Caldwell said.
Attorney General Caldwell advises consumers to avoid anyone who:
- Guarantees to get you a loan modification or stop the foreclosure process regardless of your financial situation.
- Advises you to cut off any and all contact with your lender, lawyer, or housing counselor.
- Claims that all or most of their customers get loan modifications or mortgage relief.
- Asks for an upfront fee before providing you with any service, unless they are a licensed attorney in the State of Louisiana.
- Tells you to make your mortgage payments directly to someone other than your mortgage lender or stop making payments to the mortgage lender.
- Tells you to transfer your property deed or title to someone else.
- Pressures you to sign papers that you have not had a chance to read thoroughly and understand.
The mortgage guide can be found under More Resources. Free, single copies are also available by calling Attorney General Caldwell’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 351-4889.
Homestead Exemption Presently, the Louisiana Constitution Allows for a homestead exemption of $75,000. The homestead exemption negates the parish property taxes due on the first 75,000 of market value or 7,500 of assessed value. This exemption does not apply to taxes levied by any of the eight cities, towns, villages located with in a Parish. To qualify for homestead exemption, the property must be your primary residence and you must be a resident of that Parish. Parishes has a permanent homestead exemption registration. Once you apply for homestead, you do not need to re-apply each year. If you sell your homestead property, you must re-apply when you purchase another home. The homestead exemption is granted by the State Constitution and can only be changed by an act of the Legislature. Any changes made by the legislature must be approved by 50% of the registered voters in the State of Louisiana
When Should I File A Homestead Exemption Application?
In order to qualify for homestead exemption, one must own and occupy the house as his/her primary residence. Regardless of how many houses are owned, no one is entitled to more than one homestead exemption, which is a maximum of $7,500 of assessed value, except in those parishes whereby voters approved that the next $7,500 of the assessed valuation on property receiving the homestead which is owned and occupied by a veteran with a service connected disability rating of 100% by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation. If you change primary residence, you must notify the assessor. It is advisable to go in to the assessor’s office and apply for homestead exemption as soon as you purchase and occupy your home.
What Are the Qualifications to Apply for the Special Assessment Level for 65 And Older?
A Special Assessment applies to the homestead of person s who are 65 years of age and older if the adjusted gross household income is below a certain level. For the tax year 2015, that level will be $71,563. The level may change from year to year, so it is advisable to check with your assessor’s office to determine whether you qualify. This special assessment will freeze the assessed value of the homestead for as long as the applicant owns and resides in the home and income does not exceed the maximum allowed. This Special assessment level is lost if improvements in excess of 25% of the home’s value are added. Proof of age and income is required at the time the application is signed. The freeze extends to a surviving spouse who is at least 55 years of age, and meets all other qualifications.