What if I can't pay my mortgage or home equity line?
If you're under financial stress, contact your mortgage lender to see if you can qualify to make reduced payments or be granted a complete pause in payments.
Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are providing homeowners flexibility as a result of the crisis. About half of all home loans in the United States are guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie.
In some cases, mortgage payments can be suspended or reduced for up to 12 months for borrowers who were affected by the coronavirus crisis. Homeowners in such forbearance plans will not incur late fees.
And afterward, a servicer would be required to work with the homeowner on a permanent payment plan to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including a loan modification, according to Fannie Mae's outline of the assistance options.
Keith Gumbinger, a mortgage expert and vice president at HSH.com, a mortgage information website, noted that some lenders including Bank of America are already putting such programs in place. "If you are or think that you will be experiencing difficulty in making mortgage payments due to the coronavirus, you should be proactive in contacting your mortgage servicer to get any relief process started as soon as possible," Gumbinger said.
"Don't wait until you start missing payments. Lenders are likely to become very busy in the weeks and months ahead with requests for help."
Consumers also can request refunds involving overdraft fees, non-sufficient funds fees, and monthly maintenance fees. And credit card customers can seek refunds on late fees.
The key to the bulk of these programs is you're going to have to reach out to your lender if you're facing a layoff or reduction in pay as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. And if we know anything about any of previous emergency programs, don't expect this to be a stress-free process all the time.