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Foreclosures During COVID-19

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This article answers some common questions about mortgages and foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do I still have to make mortgage payments?

Yes. There are no rules allowing people to just stop paying mortgages. If you are going to have trouble making a payment, try to work out a plan with your loan servicer. You may be able to get a forbearance that allows you to suspend payments for an agreed upon time.

Watch out for scams!

Be aware that there are scams posing as aid programs, government programs, class action law suits, and more. Some of these scams can hard to tell apart from a genuine opportunity. Falling for a scam can put you in debt and even cause you to lose your home.

HUD and its partners put together these anti-scam resources at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/prevent_loan_scams. It is important to review these resources so you can protect yourself against scam activity.

Know it. Avoid it. Report it.

I heard the federal government has stopped foreclosures. Is this true?

Section 4022 of the CARES Act suspended foreclosures on federally held mortgages through May 17, 2020. Although that date has passed, the Fair Housing Finance Agency has extended that deadline to December 31 [updated] for single-family-home mortgages held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

To find out it Fannie Mae owns your mortgage, go to www.KnowYourOptions.com/loanlookup.

To find out if Freddie Mac owns your mortgage, go to https://ww3.freddiemac.com/loanlookup

The Fair Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the United States Department of Agriculture have also stopped foreclosures on mortgages under their programs through December 31. See this article from Lone Star Legal Aid for more details.

Remember that you must ask your loan servicer for forbearance to get it. If you need a forbearance and Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac hold your mortgage, contact Fannie Mae at 800-232-6643 and contact Freddie Mac at 800-373-3343. 

It is also very important to note that if you are not in forbearance, you still owe mortgage payments even you qualify for foreclosure protections. This means that even if the government order applies to your home, you could still lose your house for nonpayment when the pause on foreclosures ends. Your lender or servicer could also report you to credit agencies for missing payments even if it is not currently allowed to foreclose. If you cannot make a payment, it is vital that you try to work out a forbearance agreement with your lender and to get the agreement in writing.

If you have trouble making payments, contact your lender or servicer and ask for forbearance, a payment plan, or some other arrangement to help you stay in your home. Even if the law allows your lender to foreclose, lenders and servicers may still be willing to work with you.

See this FAQ from Lone Star Legal Aid for more information on federal mortgage protections during COVID-19.

 

How do I know if my mortgage qualifies for CARES Act protections?

 

Fannie Mae: You can check to see if you have a Fannie Mae loan at www.knowyouroptions.com/loanlookup or call 800-2FANNIE (800-232-6643).

Freddie Mac: You can check to see if you have a Freddie Mac loan at https://ww3.freddiemac.com/loanlookup/ or call or call 800-FREDDIE (800-373-3343).

Federal Housing Administration: The FHA is a program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development, so you likely have an FHA loan if your loan statement mentions HUD. You can look up your lender or servicer on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's site at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/lender/lenderlist to see if your loan servicer is in the FHA list.

Others: If your loan statement does not make it clear whether any of the qualifying federal agencies have an interest in your loan, contact your loan servicer.

How do I ask my lender or servicer to work with me?

If you can’t make your payment, contact your loan servicer as soon as possible to discuss any options that may exist. (Your loan servicer is where you send your mortgage payments.) The servicer might work with you even if your mortgage does not qualify for federal protections.

  • If possible, contact your loan servicer before you miss any payments. 
  • Loan servicers are very busy right now, so be prepared to wait on the phone for a while. In some cases, it might be more efficient to go through their website.
  • Tell the loan servicer that you’ve been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Ask that any late fees be reversed. Ask for “forbearance.” By granting forbearance, the lender or loan servicer can defer mortgage payments and waive late fees. Usually at the end of the forbearance period you must pay the past-due balance in a lump sum unless you qualify for a loan modification or other change to your mortgage terms. Forbearance is not automatic and not guaranteed.
  • Be sure you understand what the forbearance will include. Ask the lender or loan servicer:
    • How many months’ payments will you postpone?
    • When will the deferred payments be due?
    • Will the missed payments be repaid over a long time, rather than all at once? Be wary of owing large lump-sum payments at the end of the forbearance period.
    • Will they reverse late fees?
    • Will the lender stop any negative credit reporting for the deferred payments?
  • Get all lender promises to you in writing.
  • Make sure your lender has an updated address where you can receive mail, or request communications through an online account that you can check regularly.
  • You may have to submit a written application for assistance. Continue to maintain regular contact with your servicer about any missing items until you receive a letter stating that your application is complete.

You can also use this online tool from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to help you figure out how to ask your servicer or lender for mortgage relief: bit.ly/TRLAmortgage. The information is also available in PDF format and in Spanish (Spanish PDF).

Does my city or county protect against foreclosures?

See the University of Texas' Entrepreneurship and Community Development's site for details on foreclosure protections.

Will getting forbearance hurt my credit?

Getting forbearance under the CARES Act should not hurt your credit rating. Under the CARES Act:

  • If you are current on payments and get forbearance, your credit report will show that you remain current until forbearance ends.
  • If you are delinquent and get forbearance, your credit report will show that you remain at the same level of delinquency until you catch up on payments or forbearance ends. For example, if you are 30 days late and you get forbearance, your credit report will show you as 30 days late until you catch up or forbearance ends.
  • If you are behind on payments but catch up during your forbearance period, then your credit report should update to reflect your account status as current.

Even if forbearance does not hurt your credit score, there will still be a note on your credit report that says you received forbearance. This could impact your ability to refinance in the future.

Note also that credit reporting companies are not yet sure how they will implement the CARES Act rules. Be sure to check your credit report often to make sure that it is accurate. Transunion, Experian, and Equifax will all provide free weekly credit reports through April 2021.

For more information about forbearance and credit reporting under the CARES Act, see Enforcing the CARES Act Credit Reporting Protections from the National Consumer Law Center.

Can I get help paying my mortgage?

Your city or county may also have a mortgage or general COVID-19 assistance program:

Amarillo/Panhandle area: Apply for rental assistance through the Panhandle Community Services COVID-19 Support Program.

Amarillo residents may also be able to get help through the city.

Austin: [Updated 9/23/20] Austin's RISE Fund program is no longer accepting applications for this round of funding.

Beaumont: Beaumont is working with local charities to provide help with rent and utilities. Contact Some Other Place (409-832-7976) or Habitat for Humanity (409-832-5853) to apply. Find an application here

Brazoria County: Apply for help with rent and utilities through United Way of Brazoria County (979-849-9402), the Salvation Army (979-233-5420), or Communities in Schools of Brazoria County (979-267-6799). See the flyer in English and Spanish here.

Collin County: Apply for help with rent and other bills through the Collin County CARES program. See Collin County's website for more information.

Corpus Christi: Corpus Christi Hope House and the Salvation Army are manage CARES funds to help with housing in Corpus Christi. Contact them to apply.

Dallas County: Apply for help with rent through the county's Emergency Housing Assistance Program.

The Salvation Army also has drive-through assistance locations around Dallas where you may be able to get help with rent, food, and school supplies.

Dallas/Fort Worth area residents: Go to the Dallas Evictions 2020 website or email DallasEvictions2020@gmail.com to see if a volunteer attorney can help you avoid an eviction. 

Denton County: United Way of Denton County has partnered with local organizations to help people with rent during this time. To learn how to apply, see United Way of Denton County's website

El Paso: Those in the El Paso area can apply for mortgage assistance through Project Bravo.

Fort Worth residents: Apply for assistance with rent and other bills through Fort Worth's Emergency Household Assistance Program. Go to the website or call 817-392-5720.

Fort Worth and Tarrant County residents may also be able to get help through Fort Worth's Community Action Partners.

Harris County: See this list of local organizations that provide rent, utility, food, clothing, and other assistance (from the Harris County Housing Authority).

Hidalgo County: See the Hidalgo County Community Service Agency website to learn how to apply for help with rent and other bills.

Hidalgo Cares is also taking applications for rent and mortgage assistance. Find out how to apply on the Hidalgo Cares website.

Montgomery County: Apply for rent or mortgage assistance through the Montgomery County COVID-19 Financial Assistance Program.

Plainview area: You can apply for rent assistance through Plainview Area United Way.

San Angelo: You can find the application for rent or mortgage assistance through the city's Community and Housing Department.

San Antonio residents: You may apply for help through San Antonio's Fair Housing program. The program can also help with mortgages and utilities, including internet. You may also be able to get help through the City of San Antonio's Emergency Housing Assistance Program (210-207-5910).

Travis County: You can apply for rent and mortgage assistance through Travis County Health and Human Services.

Waco:  You can apply for the Waco Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program.

Other Texas cities and counties have received federal funding that might support similar programs in the future. See a list of those cities and counties here. You can also call 211 or go to Texas211.org to learn about additional programs in your area.

List of Lenders Offering Assistance in Response to COVID-19

The below private lenders and servicers have offered to work with borrowers. Note that this list is not complete. Contact your lender or loan servicer even if they are not listed here.

  • Ally Bank will defer mortgage payment up to 120 days. Interest will accrue, but no late fees. Call 877- 247-2559. 
  • Bank of America will defer mortgage payments and home equity lines of credit (added to end of the loan). They will also pause foreclosure sales, evictions and repossessions. Call 800-669-6607. 
  • BMO Harris has flexible payment plans and fee waivers available. Apply at https://www.bmoharris.com/main/personal/financial-relief-request-form/.
  • Charles Schwab Bank offers payment forbearance up to 90 days. Go to https://www.schwab.com/faqs#beacon-deck--60341 and scroll down to "Covid-19 Impacts and Other FAQs."
  • Chase is taking customer requests for mortgage assistance. Call 1-800-848-9136 or contact them online at chase.com/digital/resources/coronavirus/mortgage. For military activated due to disaster: call military services hotline at 1-877-469-0110. 
  • Citibank offers a range of hardship programs through our service provider, Cenlar FSB. Please contact them at 800-2CENLAR (800-223-6527) or 855-839-6253. 
  • Comercia Bank offers deferrals. Call 888-444-9878 for residential mortgage options. See their website for more details.
  • East West Bank offers assistance for mortgage customers. Go to their website to learn how to apply. (Go here for small-medium business assistance.)
  • Fifth Third Bank offers payment forbearance with no late fees for 90 days on mortgages and home equity lines of credit. Will suspend all foreclosure activity on homes for the next 60 days. Call the Fifth Third hardship line at 866-601-6391.
  • HSBC offers assistance with mortgage and home equity loan payments. Call 855-806-4657.
  • Huntington National Bank offers help on all consumer loans, including mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, credit cards, and debit cards. Go to their website for information on how to apply.
  • M&T Bank offers assistance for mortgage and home equity customers. Go to their website to fill out an application.
  • PNC Bank offers help for customers affected by the virus who are encountering hardship can call 1-888-762-2265. 
  • Regions Bank offers up to 90 days mortgage payment deferrals or extensions. Go to their website for more details.
  • Truist (BB&T/SunTrust) offers a minimum of 90 days forbearance. Call 1-800-443-1032 to apply. See their see their FAQ for more details.
  • TD Bank offers to defer loan payments and waive late fees. Go to their website for more details.
  • Union Bank offers up to three months mortgage payment forbearance, as well as help with small business loans, credit cards, and bank fees. Call 1-800-237-0561 or go to their website for more information.
  • U.S. Bank offers up to 90 days mortgage payment forbearance. Go to their site for more information.
  • Wells Fargo has offered to suspend foreclosure sales and evictions for residential customers. For payment options, call 1-800-219-9739.

I asked my lender for forbearance and I didn't like the terms they offered.

Some lenders are more helpful than others. Some, for example, might allow you to go into forbearance and add any missed payments onto the end of your loan term. That is helpful.

Other lenders, though, might demand that you make up multiple payments immediately after (or even before) your forbearance period. Not so helpful.

Remember that this is a negotiation. If you do not like the terms your lender offers you, then you can call them back later and ask if they have decided to give you better terms. 

I told my bank I would not try to get forbearance. Is that binding?

Probably not. If you signed a form that said you do not intend to ask for forbearance, you can still ask for forbearance under the CARES Act -- especially if you have lost your job or have less income than when you originally borrowed.

Foreclosure Rules

For information on foreclosure rules in the time of COVID-19, see Foreclosure Prevention in Light of COVID-19 from Legal Aid of Northwest Texas and the North Central Texas Aging and Disability Center. It is mostly aimed at lawyers, but it could be helpful for anyone facing foreclosure who wants to know about COVID-19 protections.

For a general layperson's overview of foreclosure rules, see the Foreclosure Fact Sheet.

Additional Information

You can find additional information about mortgages and foreclosures during COVID-19 below:

Video: CARES Act Mortgage Forbearance: What You Need to Know (CFPB)

Mortgage Relief Online Tool

You may be unsure how to best contact your mortgage servicer or lender. If so, you can use this online tool from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to help walk you through the process: bit.ly/TRLAmortgage.

The tool is also available in Spanishbit.ly/TRLAhipoteca.