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Mortgage Relief for Those Impacted by Coronavirus
Homeowners who’ve been hit hard by the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic may be struggling to meet their mortgage payments. Fortunately, relief is available, but navigating the options can be confusing. These tips will help you review what’s out there, determine the financial aid that may be best for you, and guide you through the process of applying for, and receiving, mortgage relief during the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated nearly every sector of the economy, and many homeowners are still reeling from the impact. It isn’t easy to make the payment that takes the biggest bite out of your monthly budget when your paycheck has been cut or you’ve been laid off. In fact, according to mortgage technology and data firm Black Knight, 2.74 million mortgages were still in government or private sector COVID-related mortgage bailouts as of January 2021.1
If you’re having trouble meeting your mortgage payments due to the coronavirus pandemic, there may be assistance available to you. Here’s what you need to know about mortgage-relief programs, how to apply for assistance and resources that can help you during this challenging time.
Coronavirus Mortgage Relief Programs
Coronavirus-relief programs aim to provide struggling homeowners with a reprieve from their mortgage payments through forbearance (temporarily suspended payments) and moratoriums (a freeze) on foreclosures.
- On the federal level, government-relief programs include the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March 2020, and the COVID Relief package passed in December 2020.
- On the state level, the Save Our Home AZ (SOHAZ) program can help homeowners afford their monthly payments.
- Finally, private lenders such as credit unions may have their own assistance programs to help their borrowers get through these trying times.
Find Out What Type of Mortgage You Have
Before you can apply for aid through any of these programs, you’ll need to know exactly what kind of home loan you have. You can find out this information by calling your loan supervisor. If you can’t reach your lender, you can also find this information on your closing documents, under “Loan Information” on the document titled “Closing Disclosure.”
Is your loan backed by the federal government? Is it a conventional loan or another kind of loan? Which entity guarantees your home loan? This information can help you determine the answers to these questions:
- If your loan is backed by a government-sponsored enterprise, or GSE, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it is a conventional loan.
- The Federal Housing Administration insures FHA loans.
- VA loans are granted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- The Department of Agriculture guarantees USDA loans
All of the mortgage types listed above are overseen by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and may be eligible for relief under the CARES Act. There may also be also additional mortgage assistance available from your lender.
If your mortgage is not backed by the federal government, reach out to your lender to learn about available assistance programs.
Types of Assistance
One of the primary forms of mortgage assistance that is currently available to homeowners is forbearance, which pauses your mortgage payments for a set amount of time. Interest will continue to accrue, and the full amount will generally be due after the forbearance period ends.
Forbearance usually ends after three months. During the pandemic, that time may be extended to six months or more, depending on the lender. There may also be the option of delaying repayment until the end of your mortgage term.
All home loans covered by the CARES Act are eligible for a 180-day forbearance with the option to request an additional 180 days or to stop the forbearance at any time. Homeowners can apply before they miss a payment and must be directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19 to qualify.
Under the CARES Act, lenders will not report a forbearance to the credit bureaus and cannot charge additional fees, penalties or interest during forbearance beyond what would have normally accrued. There are also no evictions or foreclosures allowed during a period of forbearance.
If your mortgage is funded by a private lender, ask about their forbearance terms. Most lenders allow at least one forbearance during every loan term. Some will allow you to add the missed payments to the end of the loan, while others will collect the full missed payment at the end of the period of forbearance.
To request forbearance, you’ll need to contact your lender and file a forbearance request. You’ll have to confirm your financial hardship to qualify for forbearance.
Payment Reduction Programs
The SOHAZ Program and some private lenders are offering mortgage payment reduction at this time. The ultimate goal of the SOHAZ Program is to make mortgages affordable for homeowners in Arizona by ensuring that mortgage payments do not exceed 31% of the homeowner’s current gross income. Lenders must agree to participate in this program, as the mortgage assistance is provided directly to them.
Help for Renters
Renters of properties owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are also protected by a temporary eviction moratorium. What if you rent from someone other than these organizations? It’s best to keep up with your rent payments if possible. If you’re unable to do so, reach out to your landlord to discuss options.
General Financial Assistance
If you’re still struggling, you can reach out to your bank or credit union for assistance, which may include loan options, refinancing or financial counseling.
Times are challenging, but there is help available for those who need it. If you’re having trouble keeping up with your mortgage and other payments now, contact your lender while you have the widest range of possible options.