The Florida Hardest-Hit Fund program currently provides temporary mortgage payment and reinstatement assistance to unemployed and underemployed homeowners. Additionally, there are two programs in development that would help other homeowners. Keep reading to get an overview of Florida's Hardest-Hit Fund program, learn how much assistance is available, and find out if you are eligible.
(To learn about foreclosure procedures in Florida, and programs to assist Florida homeowners, visit our Florida Foreclosure Law Center.)
Hardest Hit Fund
In 2010, the U.S. Department of the Treasury created the Hardest Hit Fund to provide targeted aid to homeowners in those states most affected by the housing market crash. As part of this program, $7.6 billion in aid was allocated to the 18 states, along with Washington, D.C., that experienced the most extreme home price declines and high unemployment rates as a result of the economic crisis. (Learn more about the Hardest Hit Fund.)
Florida was awarded over $1 billion in funds through the Hardest Hit Fund to help eligible homeowners avoid foreclosure. (Learn more about the Florida foreclosure process.) To do this, Florida set up its own Hardest-Hit Fund (HHF).
As of the end of November 2013, Florida has distributed only 26% of its designated funds.
The Florida Hardest-Hit Fund
Unemployed and underemployed homeowners who have fallen behind in their mortgage payments can use HHF funds to bring their loan current and/or cover future mortgage payments.
There are two programs currently available under Florida’s HHF program, as well as two programs that are in development:
- the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program (UMAP)
- the Mortgage Loan Reinstatement Payment (MLRP) Program
- the Modification Enabling Pilot/principal reduction program (not yet available), and
- the Elderly Mortage Assistance Program (not yet available).
How the Program Works
UMAP/MLRP assistance is provided in the form of a 0% interest, deferred-payment loan secured by a junior lien that is recorded against the property. The loan is forgiven over a five-year period at 20% per year starting 18 months after acceptance into the program. You only need to repay the loan if:
- you sell your home prior to the end of the loan period and there are sufficient proceeds from the sale to pay all superior secured loans, or
- if you refinance the first mortgage loan to consolidate debt or receive cash out.
To be eligible for Florida HHF assistance, you must meet all of the below criteria.
- You are a Florida resident and a legal US resident/legal alien.
- You have experienced a financial hardship, which is the result of at least a 10% reduction in income due to unemployment or underemployment. (A reduction of income due to the death, divorce, or permanent disability of a borrower or co-borrower will not qualify.)
- Your total household income is below 140% of the area median income as provided by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (“Total household income” means all income for persons living in the home who are age 18 years and older.)
- You meet program underwriting guidelines.
Homeowners who have $5,000 (or an amount equal to or more than three times the total monthly mortgage payment including taxes and insurance) in assets must first use those assets toward mortgage payments or other existing debt before being eligible for UMAP/MLRP funds.
Home Eligibility Criteria for UMAP/MLRP
Additionally, your existing mortgage and the property securing the mortgage must meet the below criteria.
- The property is located in Florida.
- You occupy the property as your primary residence.
- The property is a single-family home, a condominium, a townhome, or a one-to-four unit dwelling of which one unit is occupied by the borrower as a primary residence.
- The property is not abandoned, vacant, or condemned.
- You do not have more than one property other than your primary residence.
- The outstanding principal balance on the first mortgage does not exceed $400,000.
- The mortgage is not seller-financed.
Mobile or manufactured homes are eligible for assistance if on a foundation permanently affixed to real estate that is owned by the homeowners. Learn more about what happens if you are struggling to pay your mobile home loan.
You are not eligible for assistance through the Florida HHF program if one of the below conditions applies to you.
- You filed bankruptcy and the bankruptcy is active. (If you previously filed bankruptcy and it was dismissed or you received a discharge, then you are eligible to apply for the program.)
- You have been convicted of a mortgage-related felony in the last ten years.
Program Details: Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program (UMAP)
UMAP provides up to 12 months of payments with a cap of $24,000 (whichever occurs first) to assist unemployed or underemployed borrowers with their first mortgage payments until they can resume full payments on their own.
Additional criteria. Your monthly payment (including principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and association dues of all secured mortgages) must be greater than 31% of the total household’s gross income after the financial hardship event.
The program will also advance up to $18,000 to reinstate a delinquent first mortgage before UMAP payments begin.
The total amount of assistance available under UMAP is limited to $42,000.
Program Details: Mortgage Loan Reinstatement Payment (MLRP) Program
Assistance under the MLRP Program consists of a one-time payment to bring a delinquent mortgage current for a homeowner who was unemployed or underemployed, but has since returned to work and is now able to make mortgage payments.
Additional criteria. In order to qualify for reinstatement funds, you must show that your monthly payment (principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and association dues of all secured mortgages) is less than 31% of your gross monthly income.
Up to $25,000 is available under the MLRP Program.
Program Details: Modification Enabling Pilot (MEP)/Principal Reduction Program
In mid-March 2013, $50 million in Florida HHF program dollars was earmarked for a principal reduction program that will work in conjunction with a loan modification and provide borrowers with up to $50,000 in principal reduction. This program, called the Modification Enabling Pilot (MEP) program, is still in development.
Once the program is up and running, details (including eligibility criteria) will be posted on the Florida HHF website at www.FLHardestHitHelp.org and on Florida Housing’s website at www.FloridaHousing.org.
Program Details: Elderly Mortgage Assistance Program ("Elmore")
In mid-June 2013, $25 million in Florida HHF program dollars was approved to be used to assist senior homeowners who are in default under their reverse mortgages due to the inability to pay taxes, insurance and/or association dues. (Learn more about the foreclosure of reverse mortgages.)
Currently, this program is in development and is expected to begin sometime in August 2013. When more information and program participation criteria become available, it will be posted on the Florida HHF official website at www.FLHardestHitHelp.org.
Servicer participation in Florida’s HHF program is voluntary. (A mortgage servicer is the company that collects monthly mortgage payments from borrowers on behalf of the owner of the loan, as well as tracks account balances, manages the escrow account, handles loss mitigation applications, and pursues foreclosure in the case of defaulted loans.)
Florida Housing will disburse all funds directly to the loan servicer on behalf of the homeowner. If your mortgage servicer has not signed up to participate, then you are not eligible to receive assistance from this program.
How to Apply
Go to www.FLHardestHitHelp.org and click on “Start Now” to fill out an online form to create a profile and begin the application process. Have the following items available:
- Information about your first mortgage and second mortgage, if you have one. (Look on the payment coupon that your mortgage servicer sends you each month to find relevant information.)
- Information about any other existing liens on the property, such as tax liens.
- Your pay stubs or documentation of income you receive from other sources, such as unemployment compensation.
- Your most recent income tax return, if self-employed.
- Information about your checking and/or savings accounts, and other assets.
Once you complete the online application, a HHF advisor will contact you to set up an appointment to review your information.
Beware of Scams
There are a number of websites on the Internet purporting to be Hardest-Hit Fund application sites that may ask you to pay for an eligibility determination in conjunction with applying for the Florida HHF.
Applying for and participating in Florida’s HHF program is free of charge and you should not pay for any services associated with applying for assistance. If you are worried that you are applying (or have already applied) for the program through a website that may not be legitimate, contact the HHF Information Line toll-free at 877-863-5244 to verify the website address.
For More Information
If you have any questions, would like additional information, or want to report a scam, go to www.FLHardestHitHelp.org.