Reservists get a break on home-mortgage rates

Besides receiving financial help from employers, US Reserves and National Guard members can expect some mortgage relief from the federal government.

By invoking the 1940 Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act last week, the government is requiring Federal Housing Authority-approved lenders to cut mortgage rates to a maximum of 6 percent for activated military personnel.

The law also prohibits, without court approval, any mortgage lender from initiating foreclosure action against reservists on active duty. Members of the military who rent are given more protection against eviction and the ability to terminate leases during their recall period.

The measure was last invoked during the 1991 Gulf War.

In addition to the mortgage-rate reduction and expanded foreclosure protection, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mel Martinez, is encouraging - but cannot require - mortgage lenders to postpone principal payments for all servicemen and women during their activation and for three months afterward.

To qualify for the aid, reserve personnel need only to be on active duty and to have a mortgage that predates their activation. HUD has a toll-free number (888-297-8685) for those in the military with questions about their mortgages.

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