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What To Do If Coronavirus Impacts Your Ability To Pay Housing Costs

Hawaii’s homeowners and renters struggling to make mortgage or rent payments — or those who believe they may fall behind in the future — can look to federally backed programs for relief.

By Lisa Scontras

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Federal Home Loan Banks are taking steps to help people who have been impacted by the coronavirus.

For those facing job loss, lost income, illness or other COVID-19 issues that affect their ability to make monthly payments, a call to the loan servicer (the company name and phone number should be listed on your monthly mortgage statement) to discuss options is recommended. As more people are affected, it’s important to make this call as soon as possible.

“With so many local people unemployed here, we expect a huge increase in people not being able to make their mortgage payments,” said Roland Shar, branch manager at Paramount Residential Mortgage Group. “There are talks about forbearance programs, which allow mortgagors to defer their payments for months; however, it is a little tricky in that while you may be given a pause in making payments, interest is still being charged and accruing. So, when things recover, borrowers will have a huge deficit to make up. My advice is to communicate with your lender and do that as soon as possible, as there may be a huge rush to do so in the next several weeks. Don’t wait.”

If your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the current provisions, if you’re eligible, include deferring monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period.

Your loan servicer may have relief options, which include:

• Possible payment relief by providing forbearance for up to 12 months

• Waiving penalties or late fees

• Suspending foreclosure sales and evictions

• Suspending the delinquency reporting to credit bureaus

• Offering loan modification options to provide mortgage payment relief or keeping payments the same amount after the forbearance period ends.

Borrowers are eligible regardless of whether their property is owner-occupied, a second home or an investment property. Additional assistance may be available.

Find out if Freddie Mac owns your mortgage by visiting ww3.freddiemac.com/loanlookup.

Find out if Fannie Mae owns your mortgage at knowyouroptions.com/loanlookup.

Similar programs aim at helping renters. If you are a renter, you may have some relief if your landlord has a federally backed loan. According to Realtor. com, “The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced this week that it would be offering financial assistance to many landlords … if they don’t evict tenants in apartments for rent who’ve lost jobs or income due to the pandemic and can’t make their rent payments.”

“This program is historic in its size, and it has the potential to provide relief to millions of families in multifamily rental homes financed through a Freddie Mac loan,” said Debby Jenkins, executive vice president and head of Freddie Mac Multifamily. “Countless Americans are facing unimaginable hardships, and Freddie Mac is doing what we can to provide relief as our nation addresses this global pandemic.”

While these programs are short-term — currently, relief is up to three months — they may offer people enough time to develop a longer-term plan. Anyone struggling to make mortgage or rent payments, or believe they may fall behind in the future, shouldn’t delay in calling their lender or landlord now.

“Ask your lender for any forbearance plans they or the government may have and make sure to ask if it is without interest accrued during the forbearance period,” added Shar. “Also, call your state representative and ask if the state of Hawaii is planning on doing something to help.”

Note: Beware of scams. Ask questions, read materials provided, and avoid any solicitations requiring up-front cash payments. If you think you have been a victim of a scam, contact the U.S. Department of Justice Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

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