BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns has a message for homeowners who receive a pre-foreclosure notice: Please stay in your home.

Kearns held a press conference Wednesday to discuss what was termed a “significant increase” in pre-foreclosure notices received by 4,530 homeowners across Erie County from their mortgage provider. He was joined by Kate Lockhart, the Vacant and Abandoned Property Program Director for the WNY Law Center, and Sandy Becker, the Senior Housing Programs Director for Belmont Housing Resources of WNY.

Kearns said the number homeowners across the county who were sent pre-foreclosure default notices has increased by 1,600 in just the past three months. He urged homeowners that were recently notified they are at least 60 to hundreds of days behind on their mortgage payments in the last three months to stay in their home.

“The one message I’m going to leave you with,” Kearns said, “is, if you are behind on your loan, stay in your home. … There are other people out there that are in the same situation you are in.”

A map displayed at the press conference showed this issue is affecting homeowners all across the county. Many services from the Clerk’s Office are available free of charge.

Kearns also warned homeowners who are behind on their payments to beware of scams offering to buy your house at much lower than market value.

“A homeowner does not have to leave the home until the deed has changed hands,” Lockhart said. She also implored homeowners to attend any hearing regarding on their case.

The complete press conference can be viewed in the video player above. The Clerk’s Office can be reached at 716-858-8785. More info can be found at stayinyourhomewny.com.