BROWNSVILLE Home foreclosures are on the rise again, up seven percent last month nationally. That's a seven-month high, according to RealtyTrac. Some industry experts are calling it a positive trend, saying old bad loans have been clogging up the market for too long. But Marlene Chavez, a policy analyst with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, says many borrowers are unnecessarily vulnerable because they aren't aware of alternatives, or of their rights.

That's why her organization is now offering free foreclosure-avoidance presentations to communities and groups, as well as individual guidance.

"What to do before, if you're about to buy a home; what to look out for. And then, if you're already in that situation, the process of how foreclosure occurs, and what you can do to try to save your home. And, if not, what other resources or options are out there."

She's seen an increase lately in borrowers seeking information about avoiding repossessions, and she thinks the down economy is at least partly responsible. Job losses, she says, are a common trigger. Texas foreclosure numbers place the state squarely in the middle nationally, with nearly 10,000 October filings.

Chavez says a lot of people these days are looking into refinancing to ease their monthly payments, but some unscrupulous lenders are taking advantage of them, sometimes not even providing borrowers with revised contracts or amortization tables.

"They don't know that they're supposed to get a new contract. They don't know what the interest rates should be. They just go by whatever payments they're being told for them to pay because they want to keep their home. They have the right to know what's going on."

All Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid services are free of charge to qualified low-income individuals. More information is at www.trla.org.

For assistance criteria, visit www.trla.org