What Is the Deadline to Get a CARES Act Forbearance?

The deadline to get a CARES Act forbearance depends on what kind of loan and property you have.

By , Attorney (University of Denver Sturm College of Law)

Under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, homeowners with federally backed mortgage loans who've been financially affected by COVID-19, regardless of delinquency status, can get a forbearance.

A CARES Act forbearance, sometimes called a "COVID-19 forbearance," lasts 180 days (six months). Borrowers might be able to get an additional 180 days, sometimes more. The right to this type of forbearance applies to borrowers with federally backed mortgage loans living in properties designed for the occupancy of one to four families, like single-family homes.

To get a forbearance, you need to contact your loan servicer by the deadline and affirm that you've suffered a financial hardship due to the coronavirus national emergency. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) set their own deadlines for getting a forbearance.

Forbearance Deadlines for Mortgages on One- to Four-Unit Properties

The deadline to request a forbearance for a mortgage on a one- to four-unit home differs based on what governmental entity backs the loan.

Deadline to Get a Forbearance for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loans

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac haven't issued any guidance giving a deadline to request an initial forbearance. The latest guidance from Fannie Mae (Lender Letter LL-2020-02) says that its forbearance policies are "effective immediately and are effective until Fannie Mae provides further notice, unless otherwise stated." Similarly, Freddie Mac's issued Bulletin 2020-4 states that the forbearance plan guidelines announced in the bulletin are effective immediately. The bulletin also says, "Freddie Mac will continue to monitor the situation and may revise or revoke this temporary guidance at any time, as appropriate."

So, it's currently unclear exactly how long borrowers get to request forbearances for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage loans. It's reasonable to assume you may request a CARES Act forbearance until the coronavirus national emergency declaration expires on May 11, 2023.

Once the right to get a COVID-19 forbearance expires, be aware that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer six-month forbearances (plus up to six additional months of forbearance in some cases) to borrowers who meet eligibility requirements.

Forbearance Extensions for Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-Backed Loans

The FHFA announced that borrowers with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed loans could extend their forbearances for another three months after the initial 180-day forbearance and 180-day extension expire. To get the forbearance extension, borrowers must have a COVID-19 forbearance plan in place on or before February 28, 2021, and other limits might apply.

In addition, a COVID-19 payment deferral can cover missed payments. With a deferral, borrowers repay the skipped payments when the home is sold, refinanced, or at mortgage maturity.

Deadline to Get a Forbearance for FHA-Insured Loans, VA-Guaranteed Loans, and USDA Loans

Under FHA's guidelines, you must ask for an initial COVID-19 forbearance by May 31, 2023. Also, a COVID-19 forbearance period can't extend beyond November 30, 2023.

The VA and the USDA announced that if your loan is VA-guaranteed or a USDA direct loan, you may request an initial COVID-19 forbearance for as long as the COVID-19 national emergency is ongoing. (In addition to CARES Act forbearances, the USDA is offering year-long forbearances to direct home loan borrowers who the coronavirus crisis has impacted.)

Forbearance Extensions for FHA-Insured, VA-Guaranteed, and USDA Loans

For FHA-insured loans, if the initial forbearance date is March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, you can get two six-month forbearances and two additional three-month forbearances. If the initial forbearance date is July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020, you can get a three-month extension after the initial two 180-day periods. If the initial forbearance date is October 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, you can only get two six-month forbearance periods. And you can get a six-month forbearance and six-month extension if your initial request is made between July 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021. If you request an initial 180-day forbearance on or after October 1, 2021, you can get an additional six months if the forbearance is exhausted and expires before the end of the declared COVID-19 national emergency on May 11, 2023.

The VA announced that borrowers with FHA-insured loans could get up to six months of additional mortgage-payment forbearance in three-month increments if they entered a forbearance on or before June 30, 2020.

USDA announced that the initial forbearance period may be up to 180 days, and a borrower may request an extension of up to an additional 180 days. Borrowers who received an initial CARES Act forbearance may be granted up to two additional three-month payment forbearances. The borrower must request each extension individually.

Getting Help With Your Mortgage During the COVID-19 Outbreak

To get more information about your mortgage rights under the federal CARES Act, consider talking to a foreclosure attorney or a HUD-approved housing counselor. A HUD-approved housing counselor can provide helpful information (at no cost) about different ways to deal with your mortgage debt and avoid a foreclosure.