Don't pay a financial counselor or lawyer to help you through mortgage troubles, at least not right away. There's free, local help available, mostly supported by federal programs and grants.


COUNSELING

Certified counselors can analyze your situation and help set up a revised payment plan.

* Los Angeles Neighborhood Housing Services: This 25-year-old organization has 21 certified counselors on staff and runs monthly foreclosure prevention fairs.

Contact: www.lanhs.org,

(888) 895-2647 * U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: HUD certifies counselors in 18 locations in Los Angeles County, seven in Orange County, five in Riverside County, four in San Bernardino County, three in Ventura County.

Contact: www.hud.gov/keepyourhome (click on "Search for a Counseling Agency")

LEGAL HELP

Attorneys at these organizations can check documents. Some offices are open to anyone; others help only low-income mortgage holders.

* Asian Pacific American Legal Center, (213) 977-7500 * Bet Tzedek House of Justice, (213) 384-3243 * Fair Housing Council of the San Fernando Valley, (818) 373-1185 * Inland Counties Legal Services (Riverside/San Bernardino), (888) 455-4257 * Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, (323) 801-7989 * Legal Aid Society of Orange County, (800) 834-5001 * Neighborhood Legal Service of Los Angeles County, (800) 433-6251

Source: Times research