After hurricanes Harvey and Irma tore through Mexico, the Caribbean, and the southern United States in September 2017, American government agencies and private mortgage companies offered assistance to homeowners needing to delay their mortgage payments.
A spokesperson for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Brian Sullivan, told us on 15 September 2017 that approximately 280,000 Florida homeowners using Federal Housing Administration-insured loans live in counties affected by Hurricane Irma, and that about 220,000 homeowners in parts of Texas damaged by Hurricane Harvey (which made landfall earlier in the month) are currently using FHA loans.
The department has some information on its web site:
If you can’t pay your mortgage because of the disaster, your lender may be able to help you. If you are at risk of losing your home because of the disaster, your lender may stop or delay initiation of foreclosure for 90 days. Lenders may also waive late fees for borrowers who may become delinquent on their loans as a result of the disaster.
FHA borrowers are automatically eligible for a 90-day “foreclosure moratorium”(preventing the start of foreclosure proceedings) in the event of a natural disaster if they or their families live in counties that have been declared a federal disaster area by the government. They are also eligible if:
- They are related to someone who was injured or killed, or reported as missing because of the incident.
- The disaster “directly or substantially affected” their ability to pay their mortgage.
HUD also advises:
FHA’s Foreclosure Moratorium only applies to borrowers in default. If you are current, you should continue to make your mortgage payment whenever possible. If, however, you are unable to pay your loan as a result of the disaster, your lender may waive any late fees normally charged and let you know about other options.
If their lender is not able to help them, the agency urges borrowers to contact HUD directly for assistance.
Two private mortgage companies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, also offer loan deferment programs for customers affected by natural disasters. Borrowers with loans through each company are potentially eligible to pause their mortgage payments for up to 12 months while waiving late fees or risking having a delinquency on their loan reported to credit bureaus.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also operates a phone line connecting people unsure whether to pursue forbearance (as the practice of suspending a mortgage payment is known) with counselors from HUD. College students using federally-funded loans who are affected by natural disasters like the two hurricanes are potentially eligible for loan forbearance lasting up to 90 days.