When finances get tight, even if it’s from an unexpected expense or job loss, your mortgage payment could seem less urgent than other bills. So what happens if you’re late, and what should you do if you miss one?

Most mortgages are due at the first of every month. You have a grace period until the 15th, then after that you may be given a penalty or delinquent fee. It’s not until your payment is 30 days late that lenders will report you to credit bureaus and your credit score takes a hit. After the 30 day mark, you will receive a special notice or letter informing you that you’re in danger of foreclosure if you don’t pay.

Of course our primary advice is to pay your mortgage as soon as you can. But if this doesn’t seem like a possibility, it’s best to contact your lender immediately. Sometimes there are flexible solutions if you’re experiencing a special circumstance. Letting your lender know of late payments ahead of time can save your credit score and your home.

One of your first options is getting a loan modification, which changes the terms of your mortgage. This can reduce your principal amount or lower your interest rate. Loan modifications are given to individuals suffering from medical hardships, job loss, divorce, or another life-changing event that’s affected finances.

If late payments are due to unemployment, find information on the Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP) which reduces payment or suspends them temporarily.

When it comes down to the wire, you may be able to get a lower monthly payment through refinancing or simply selling your house. This might be preferable over loss through foreclosure.

The first step is to connect with your lender as early as possible. Being proactive about the situation shows that you’re serious about your mortgage and want to avoid foreclosure. Your lender will have a list of the best options available to you!