Help for Homeowners Facing Foreclosure After a Natural Disaster

If you are facing foreclosure after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster, you might qualify for foreclosure relief.

In the wake of a natural disaster—like Hurricane Harvey, Irma, or Maria, or the California wildfires of 2017there are certain foreclosure protections available for homeowners, like moratoriums. You might qualify for a moratorium if you have an FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or VA loan.

If your loan isn't one of these types, you should be aware that borrowers with any type of loan may qualify for financial relief from FEMA. Also, loan servicers sometimes offer relief options, like forbearances or modifications, to affected homeowners.

Read on to learn out more about the types of foreclosure relief available if you have been the victim of a natural disaster.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) often provides a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages following natural disasters, so long as the property was directly affected by the disaster and you don't have other resources, like insurance settlements, to help you catch up. For example, HUD granted a 90-day moratorium after the California wildfires in 2017.

You're generally eligible for a foreclosure moratorium if you are in one of three following basic groups:

  1. You (or your family) live within the geographic boundaries of a presidentially-declared disaster area.
  2. Someone from your household is deceased, missing, or injured directly due to the disaster.
  3. Your financial ability to pay your mortgage debt was directly or substantially affected by a disaster.

A moratorium may be extended—like to 180 days as in the case of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria—if:

  • the disaster affects a large area, or
  • is especially severe.
FHA later extended the moratorium for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who meet certain criteria for an additional 60 days, and then another 90 days, until August 16, 2018.

Other Help

In some cases, FHA offers loan modifications to borrowers who went through a disaster and are struggling to make their mortgage payments. And, in February 2018, FHA introduced a Disaster Standalone Partial Claim option to help struggling borrowers start making mortgage payments again without a payment shock.

The lender must evaluate borrowers for a Disaster Standalone Partial Claim at the end of the forbearance period if the borrower does not qualify for a Disaster Rate and Term Loan Modification. This option puts up to 12 months of missed mortgage payments into an interest-free second mortgage. The second loan becomes due and payable when the borrower sells the home or refinances.

To qualify for a Disaster Standalone Partial Claim, you must live and/or work in a presidentially declared major disaster area and became delinquent on your mortgage payments because of a 2017 disaster, and your initial mortgage forbearance period is ending. Other requirements include:

  • You were current or less than 30 days past due on your mortgage payments as of the date of the disaster declaration.
  • Your income is equal to or more than your pre-disaster income.
  • You have the ability to resume paying the monthly mortgage payments.
  • You own and occupy the property.

To find out if your loan is FHA insured, call your loan servicer and ask if your loan is a FHA loan or check your loan paperwork.

Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Loans

During times of natural disasters, the VA encourages loan holders and servicers to:

  • establish a 90-day moratorium on initiating new foreclosures, and
  • help individuals affected by a natural disaster by offering forbearance or modification of veterans’ loans.

(Learn more about foreclosure relief after a natural disaster if you have an FHA or VA loan.)

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loans

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac generally implement a 90-day foreclosure sale suspension immediately following a natural disaster if the property is within a federally designated disaster area. Fannie and Freddie also usually offer modification programs and other forms of assistance to homeowners who've gone through a natural disaster. (To learn more, see Foreclosure Help: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loans.)

To find out if Fannie Mae owns your loan, go to http://knowyouroptions.com and click on “Loan Lookup” in the upper-right corner. To find out if Freddie Mac owns your loan, go to https://ww3.freddiemac.com/corporate.

Relief for Borrowers In Any State With Any Type of Loan

Mortgage lenders and servicers may also provide relief from foreclosure by offering flexible loss mitigation options to borrowers following a natural disaster. Possible relief options include:

  • loan modification
  • forbearance (a temporary suspension or reduction in payments)
  • a waiver of late payments, and/or
  • suspending delinquency reporting to credit bureaus.

Additionally, FEMA offers financial assistance so individuals and families whose property has been damaged or destroyed as a result of a federally declared disaster can make their mortgage payments or repair the home. Go to www.fema.gov for more information.

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