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, South Carolina received over $295 million to provide assistance to homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments due to a hardship such as unemployment or medical expenses. Read on to learn about the different types of help available through South Carolina’s Hardest Hit Fund program, called the South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program (SC HELP), and find out if you may be eligible for assistance. (To learn more about the Hardest Hit Fund and the various state programs funded by it, visit our Hardest Hit Fund topic page.)
South Carolina’s Hardest Hit Fund Program: SC HELP
SC HELP has three programs to assist responsible South Carolina homeowners who are having difficulty making their mortgage payments. You may qualify for more than one type of assistance under SC HELP, though the maximum amount of assistance available is limited to $36,000 per household. The programs are:
- Monthly Payment Assistance, which assists eligible homeowners by making their monthly mortgage payments directly to the bank.
- Direct Loan Assistance, which provides funds to bring the loan current if you’ve fallen behind on your mortgage payments. (For some homeowners, Monthly Payment Assistance may also be available in addition to Direct Loan Assistance.)
- Transition Assistance, which provides a $5,000 grant to homeowners who are completing a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure to pay the expenses associated with moving to a rental property. (See our Short Sales and Deeds in Lieu of Foreclosure area for more information on these topics.)
Additionally, in late 2013, South Carolina received approval from the Treasury to launch a new program that provides up to $36,000 in principal reduction to homeowners when they modify a loan.
How SC HELP Works
Mortgage Payment Assistance and Direct Loan Assistance is provided in the form of a 0% interest, non-amortizing forgivable loan secured by a junior lien that is recorded against the property. The loan is forgiven at 20% per year. So long as you continue to reside in the home, the loan is completely forgiven after five years and the lien will then be released. If you sell the home before the end of five years, you’ll need to repay the outstanding balance from the net proceeds.
Transition assistance is paid directly to the homeowner as a one-time grant.
To be eligible for SC HELP assistance, you must meet all of the below criteria.
- You are having trouble paying your mortgage due to unemployment, underemployment, loss or drastic reduction of self-employment income, catastrophic health related expenses, divorce, or death of a spouse.
- The home is your full-time, primary residence.
- You are listed on the mortgage.
- The original loan amount is not more than $729,750.
Mobile or manufactured homes are eligible for assistance, however the loan on the property must be secured by a mortgage against the home and the property it sits on. Learn more about what happens if you are struggling to pay your mobile home loan.
You do not have to be behind on your mortgage payments to qualify for assistance under the SC HELP program. This means that even if you have not missed a single payment, you may be able to receive help.
On the flip side, if you have received a foreclosure notice or served with foreclosure papers, you may be able to qualify for SC HELP as well. You should apply as soon as possible so there is sufficient time for your application to be evaluated. (Learn more about the South Carolina foreclosure process.)
You are not eligible for assistance from the SC HELP program if you have filed bankruptcy and the bankruptcy is active. If you previously filed bankruptcy and it was dismissed or discharged, then you are eligible to apply for the program.
Servicer participation in the SC HELP 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.)
While many servicers have signed on to participate in the program, there are certain servicers that have refused to agree to receive funds through the program. For a list of non-participating servicers, go to www.schelp.gov and go to “About” and click on “Non-Participating Servicers.”
How to Apply
Go to www.schelp.gov and click on the “Get Started” button to fill out an initial eligibility questionnaire. If you are deemed eligible based on your responses, you can then click on the “Continue” button and apply right away. You can also call a toll-free 855-435-7472 (9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday) to speak with a representative if you would prefer to apply over the phone.
Once you have completed the application, you will then be assigned to a local processing agency. A processor will contact you by phone or email within seven days after you have submitted your application to guide you through the process and help in gathering the required documents, including:
- hardship information
- household income documentation
- asset verification
- mortgage information, and
- property details.
(To find out the exact documents you will need, go to www.schelp.gov, then “About,” and then “Documents Needed to Apply.”)
Complete applications can be processed and approved in as few as 30 days.
Beware of SC HELP Scams
The SC HELP program is free and you should not pay for any services associated with applying for assistance. Do not pay any company that promises to expedite your application or guarantees approval.
For More Information
If you would like more information about SC HELP or have questions about submitting an application, call 855-435-7472 or 803-896-9200. You can also complete the contact form at www.schelp.gov/About/ContactUs.aspx.
(To find out about federal foreclosure prevention programs, visit our Government Foreclosure Prevention Programs topic area.)