Inside Stories

How I cut my monthly mortgage payment in half so I could keep my Staten Island home

  • New Yorker Iona Jarmond scored a tax exemption and loan modification through free help from Legal Services NYC
  • An attorney helped her navigate a foreclosure lawsuit and a settlement conference with her lender
  • Roughly 60,000 New Yorkers turned to Legal Services NYC for housing counseling services in 2023
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
March 4, 2024 - 9:30AM
Aerial view of Staten Island St George Ferry terminal. Manhattan Area, New York of USA. Skyline and cityscape with skyscrapers at United States of America, NYC, US. American architecture.

Iona Jarmond moved to Staten Island with her husband after realizing they needed more room for their children.


Life-long New Yorker Iona Jarmond was in danger of losing her Staten Island home after her husband passed away in 2016 and she couldn’t keep up with her monthly mortgage payments. But Jarmond was able to get free assistance from Legal Services NYC’s Staten Island office, funded by the state's Homeowner Protection Program. Jarmond scored a tax exemption and a loan modification that allowed her to keep up with the monthly fees—and keep her house. Here, she and Legal Services attorney Jennifer Lerman share the steps they took to keep her home in her hands.

Jarmond: I’ve lived in New York all of my life. I was born in Harlem hospital, and I moved to Graniteville, Staten Island about 30 years ago. Me and my husband—who has passed on now—we adopted five children. The reason that we moved was because my husband wanted to give the kids the space that they needed. 

When my husband died, I didn’t want to lose the house. All my kids were grown besides my daughter, Belinda. And that’s why I was able to survive those first few years after my husband died—those kids helped me pay. My kids were telling me “don’t worry about it, no matter what you won’t be homeless,” but that didn’t stop me from worrying. The only thing that stopped me from worrying was when Jennifer turned that thing around. 

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Finding a helping hand

Jarmond: I remember coming into Legal Services’ office [in 2018]. Jennifer helped me fill out everything. I had to get certain paperwork—like a budget letter from social security—and we did it. We did whatever she said for us to do. 

I remember in that first meeting in her office, I was so scared. And she was so comforting and so nice, and that put me at ease a little bit—that she was calm and not worried. I had never been through anything like this. It was very traumatizing. 

She helped me get my taxes lowered, my mortgage lowered, my water bill paid. I’m on a fixed income. I can’t even say how many things she helped me with. Those applications are hard, and you need somebody to understand them. 

Reducing the monthly payments

Lerman: Ms. Jarmond came to us before she was in foreclosure in 2018. Her mortgage had been in the name of her deceased spouse and it was unaffordable to her, and her family had been helping her keep up with the payments for as long as they could. But it was becoming untenable. These were high payments and she’s on a fixed income. We determined that she would be eligible for a loan modification and that she was lacking a property tax abatement that would bring the monthly payments down even further. 

The bank had sued her husband because he was the borrower, but he was deceased. So we filed a motion to dismiss the foreclosure action. Our motion was held in abeyance [temporarily suspended] during the settlement conference. 

Even if you get a foreclosure action dismissed, they can just bring a new action. This is the type of calculation that we talk about with our clients—that would have meant more payments that you're behind, so you'd owe more. It’s not always to your benefit to try to do it that way. In this case, we thought she was so clearly qualified for this modification, and that’s what she wanted. 

She was initially denied a modification and we had to appeal that denial in 2019. She was ultimately approved that year, and we got her a disabled homeowner’s tax exemption that year as well. We brought her monthly payment down from about $2,400 a month to $1,100 a month. 

Lower payments, fewer worries

Jarmond: [After I got the modification,] I didn't have to worry about whether I would make the mortgage. It’s still difficult, but it’s no longer as difficult as it was. I was floundering before. 

I still talk to Jennifer about everything. When she closed my case, as soon as I needed something, I had her open my case again. She took care of it. She helped me do those applications. You can’t do that on your own without an attorney. Unless you have some legal training, there’s just no way a regular person like me just with a high-school diploma would be able to do that.

Lerman: We helped her renew the disabled homeowner’s exemption because those are up for renewal every year. And for this year, I actually just helped her apply for the senior citizen homeowner’s exemption because she's now eligible for it. That one's a bit better because that renews every two years.

Seek out legal assistance when you need it

Jarmond: I would definitely tell folks [in a similar position] to go to legal services. It is worth the trip. It has changed my life and my daughter’s life. Everything is not roses—we still have to pay the mortgage and we have a lot of bills after that—but at least now we have a chance. I still have worries, but nothing like I did before.

I hope they don’t end the Homeowner Protection Program. You don’t know what it's like to be getting put out. Hopefully nobody has to experience that. I don’t even wish that on people I don’t like. You don’t want to worry about getting put out of your home or your apartment. That’s stress you don’t need. That service is needed—that’s a fact. 


Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

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