Tenants & Homeowners
Educate yourself before looking for a home. Look for free seminars, sponsored by local not-for-profit organizations, for first-time home buyers. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a hotline number to help you locate free pre-purchase counseling near you: 1-800-569-4287
Do not let yourself be pressured to sign anything. A legitimate business should always give you time to review a contract before signing. Never sign a document with blank spaces.
Have your own attorney review all contracts and loan documents before you sign. It is not a good idea to use an attorney provided by the seller or the lender. Ask your attorney about any provision you do not fully understand. One way to find an attorney in New York City is by calling the Bar Association Referral Line at 212-626-7373.
Shop around for the best mortgage terms for which you qualify. Mortgages with low down payments are available from a variety of lenders. The seller should not require that you use a particular mortgage bank. You can request a free brochure on choosing a mortgage from the New York State Banking Department by calling 1-800-522-3330.
Get an independent inspection of the home. Negotiate a provision in the contract that states that you have the right to get an inspection by someone of your choosing and to cancel the contract if you are not satisfied with the inspection. Choose a licensed engineer or architect to perform the inspection. Do not rely on the appraisal that is provided by the lender.
Promises of future repairs and renovations can lead to future problems. Have all promises put in writing. If all work is not complete by the time of the closing, make sure repair money is put in an escrow account until the work is done.
There is no such thing as a FHA-warrantied home. If a business tells you that the house is inspected by a government agency or that the government guarantees the house is in good condition, be careful!
Before you close on a house, make sure you and your attorney understand and agree with any last-minute changes in the documents.
How to avoid deed theft and similar scams and protect the ownership of your home
Mortgage Enforcement Unit (MEU)
The Office of the New York State Attorney General (OAG) is committed to protecting homeowners across the state who suffered a financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of that effort, the OAG’s Mortgage Enforcement Unit (MEU) is helping to oversee the distribution of New York state’s Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). The MEU will work with other state partners to ensure that HAF supplements, rather than replaces, the mortgage industry’s own homeowner-relief efforts, so that these funds can protect as many homeowners as possible.
For more information about the MEU’s efforts to protect New York homeowners, see the OAG’s announcement and letter to the mortgage servicing industry.
In addition, protect yourself from scams!
- Read the OAG's latest alerts in 10 languages about scams targeting New York homeowners.
- If you want to report a scam related to HAF assistance or other loan-modification services, please file a complaint with the OAG’s Consumer Frauds Bureau or call the OAG's Consumer Helpline at 1-800-771-7755.
- For other information about COVID-19 resources, visit Guidance on Coronavirus Resources.
Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP)
Since 2012, the Office of the New York State Attorney General and New York have dedicated over $150 million to fund a network of nearly 90 legal services and housing counseling organizations to provide homeowners with free, qualified mortgage-assistance relief services across the state.
The HOPP program is designed to ensure that no family in New York ever loses their home because they do not have access to a lawyer or qualified housing counselor.
- assistance with applying for a loan modification, or other types of loss mitigation
- direct representation in court proceedings, including settlement conferences
- home ownership counseling
Protect Our Homes initiative
In 2020, the OAG launched the Protect Our Homes initiative, which protects homeowners from deed-theft scams through community education and outreach, enforcement, and policy and legislative proposals.
In deed-theft scams, bad actors trick homeowners into signing over their homes. Once they are in possession of the deed, scammers try to evict the homeowner and sell the house to a third party, taking the profit for themselves. Scammers target vulnerable homeowners — those who are elderly or disabled, own homes but struggle to pay ongoing expenses, or have liens for unpaid city charges. Scams take a various forms, including:
- forging signatures
- misrepresenting the nature of documents or transactions
- making false promises about helping the homeowner save their home
There were approximately 3,000 complaints about deed theft from 2014 to 2018 in New York City, 45% of which came from Brooklyn.
The Protect Our Homes initiative has a joint focus on prevention and enforcement. The OAG works in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, community-based organizations, and local elected officials to educate homeowners and their communities about how to recognize scams and seek legitimate help. The OAG receives and screens complaints and launches civil and criminal enforcement actions targeted at bad actors. The OAG uses this experience to develop legislative and policy solutions.
The Attorney General is committed to protecting vulnerable homeowners and encourages those who have been scammed to report complaints by calling the office at 1-800-771-7755 or by filling out a complaint form. While the OAG cannot assist with mortgage payments, homeowners throughout the state who are behind on their mortgage or other charges can get free help in their community by calling the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) hotline at 1-855-466-3456. Any identifying information provided to the OAG will be protected in a manner according to state law and policies on the safeguarding of identifying information.