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 initially 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. Further funding was approved in 2016.
Though the program was initially intended to continue through 2020, SC HELP stopped accepting new applications for assistance in early 2018. Other states have also closed their Hardest Hit Fund programs early when funding ran out but reopened them when more money became available.
Should South Carolina start accepting applications again, here's a rundown of its programs.
SC HELP developed four programs to assist responsible South Carolina homeowners having difficulty making their mortgage payments. The maximum amount of assistance available is limited to $36,000 per household. The programs are:
Mortgage Payment Assistance and Direct Loan Assistance is provided in the form of a 0% interest, nonamortizing forgivable loan secured by a junior lien that is recorded against the property. So long as you continue to reside in the home, the loan is completely forgiven after five or ten 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.
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 manufactured home loan.)
You do not have to be behind on your mortgage payments to qualify for assistance under the SC HELP program. On the flip side, if you have received a foreclosure notice or served with foreclosure papers, you might be able to qualify for SC HELP as well. If you're facing a foreclosure, you need to apply as soon as possible so there's 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. Learn more about how mortgage servicing works.)
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.
If you would like more information about SC HELP or have questions, call 855-435-7472. You can also complete the contact form at www.schelp.gov/About/ContactUs.aspx. You can also find various links and resources to help you avoid a foreclosure on the SC Help website.
If you want to learn more about South Carolina foreclosure procedures or want information about possible defenses to a foreclosure in your situation, consider talking to a foreclosure attorney. If you want to learn more about different alternatives to foreclosure, like loan modifications, short sales, and deeds in lieu of foreclosure, consider talking to a HUD-approved housing counselor.