Many of my clients, particularly Chapter 13 clients, are struggling with their mortgages. Quite a few of them have the “Adjustable Rate Mortgages” or ARM’s that were pushed by the mortgage industry in the past few years, and contributed to the subprime mortgage meltdown. Congress failed to pass legislation that would have permitted you to modify your home mortgage loan in Chapter 13.

If you need help with your mortgage, you may have already been offered a Loan Modification by your mortgage servicer. If not, or if you need help, there is free help available through HUD Approved Housing Counseling Agencies. You can go to the web site to find one. There are quite a few housing counselors in the Houston area, and their services are free to you; they are funded by the government. For a list of all the Loan Modification programs available, go to:

Whatever you do, don’t waste precious money and time trying to use a “Loan Modification” company that you find on the internet or late-night TV. They charge thousands of dollars, and many of them are just outright scams. The Federal Trade Commission recently announced “Operation Loan Lies,” a national law enforcement effort to crack down on mortgage modification scams.

“These con artists see the high foreclosure rates as an opportunity to prey on people in distress,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. “They promise to rescue homeowners in troubled financial waters, but after they take their money they throw them an anchor instead of a lifeline. People facing foreclosure should avoid any company or individual that requires a fee in advance, guarantees to stop a foreclosure or modify a loan, or advises the homeowner to stop paying the mortgage company.” ■

Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure. It just means you haven’t succeeded yet.
-Robert Schuller

Life is what we make it; always has been, always will be.
-Grandma Moses

Follow these smart tips for conserving your cash

Saving money is smart in good times and bad. With a little effort and planning, you can cut your personal costs by following some of these handy hints:

  • Unplug appliances. Don’t just turn your TV off-unplug it when you’re not watching anything. Even switched off, most appliances such as TVs and computers consume some electricity. Pulling the plug saves on money and energy-related resources.
  • Drive less. Cutting your car use in half can save you more than $1,000 a year. Carpool, or use public transportation, to get to and from work. You’ll save on gas, maintenance, and insurance.
  • Eat at home. The average person spends more than $2,200 a year eating at restaurants or fast-food establishments. Cook your own meals, and take your lunch to work instead of buying food every day.
  • Take advantage of customer reward programs. Discount cards that save you a few dollars here and there can add up to major savings over time. For your convenience, set up an alternative e-mail account at Gmail or Yahoo and use it when you sign up for programs. You’ll be better able to manage the promotional e-mails you receive from joining companies’ mailing lists.
  • Wait before buying. Implement a 24-hour rule before buying anything (and a 30-day rule for major purchases). Don’t buy anything on impulse: Wait the required amount of time, and then decide how much you really need or want the item. You may be surprised by what you can live without.

A little humor

Creative Excuses for Falling Asleep at Work

1. They told me at the blood bank that this might happen.

2. I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm.

3. This is one of the seven habits of highly effective people.

4. I was testing the keyboard for drool resistance.

5. I was doing a highly specific Yoga exercise to relieve work-related stress. Are you discriminating against people who practice yoga?

6. I’m testing one of the 15 minute power naps they raved about at the time-management course you sent me to.

7. Whew! Guess I must’ve left the top off the white out. You got here just in time!

8. Why did you interrupt me? I almost figured out a solution to our budget problem.

9. The coffee machine is broken.

10. Someone must have put the decaf in the wrong pot.

11. Boy, that cold medicine I took last night just won’t wear off!

12. Ah, the unique and unpredictable circadian rhythms of the workaholic.

13. I wasn’t sleeping. I was trying to pick up a contact lens without my hands.

14. Amen.

Are bill collectors threatening to take your home or garnish your wages?

Are they threatening to do anything else that they are not allowed to by law?

Is your mortgage company charging you fees and costs that are not due? Are you just overwhelmed with debt? If any of these situations describes you, contact Mr. Black at 713-772-8037 or send him an email at [email protected]

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
-Milton Berle

Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.
-Mary Anne Radmacher

ARE YOU IN CHAPTER 13 NOW? Always keep the law office updated with your current address, telephone numbers, and email address. We may need to reach you quickly. 24 hours/7 days a week, you can check on the status of your Trustee payments, how much you still owe on your case, etc., by going to to set up your user ID and password. Lose job or overtime? Expenses increase? Want to give up property to lower payments? Go to , click on “Current Clients Click Here” on home page, and fill out the Motion to Modify worksheet. Fax to office at 713-772-5058. We’ll review it and contact you if a change to your plan is possible.


J Thomas Black
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Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization