Mortgage and Rent Relief Options Explained
Learn about the mortgage and rent relief options available during COVID-19, how to get relief and what to do if you receive it
If you’ve been financially impacted by the coronavirus, you may have concerns about paying your mortgage or rent during this difficult time.
Fortunately, you may be able to find help at the state and local levels or through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In this article, you’ll learn about assistance options that may be available to you during the COVID-19 pandemic, the steps you need to take to get relief and what to do once you receive it.
What Relief Is Available for Homeowners With Federally Backed Mortgages?
The CARES Act has a major benefit for homeowners with qualifying federally backed mortgages: The ability to request forbearance.
If you experience financial hardship because of the coronavirus, you have the right to request forbearance—which temporarily pauses or reduces payments—for up to 180 days. You can also request an extension for another 180 days after that.
During forbearance, your mortgage servicer can’t charge additional fees and penalties or add additional interest to your account. Your mortgage servicer also must continue to report your account as current to the credit bureaus if you’re current when you request forbearance. Keep in mind that your regular interest may continue to accrue according to your loan schedule.
What Relief Is Available for Homeowners With Conventional Mortgages?
Even if your loan isn’t federally backed, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) still recommends you contact your mortgage servicer immediately if you’re unable to pay your mortgage. Financial regulators like the CFPB are encouraging lenders to work with people who are experiencing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some state and local governments are also implementing their own relief programs. You can head to your state’s government website or visit your local government website for details and next steps.
What Steps Do I Need to Take to Get Mortgage Relief?
1. Check if Your Mortgage Is Federally Backed
To qualify for CARES Act protections, your loan must be federally owned—or it must be backed by an eligible federal agency or entity. Ask your mortgage servicer if you’re not sure if your loan is federally owned or backed, or research who owns your mortgage.
2. Call Your Mortgage Servicer
Your mortgage servicer is the company that receives your mortgage payment each month. It can explain your options, such as forbearance. But first, you might want to do a little prep work. Some mortgage servicers, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, use scripts when they talk to borrowers. You can check these out to get a feel for what to expect. Then you can prepare a list of questions to ask. These may include:
- How can I temporarily reduce or suspend my payments?
- Can you offer forbearance, loan modification or any other hardship programs?
- Can you waive late fees on my mortgage account?
- How will I need to make up any missed payments?
- Will you continue paying my property taxes and insurance from my escrow account?
3. Get All Agreements in Writing
Once your mortgage servicer agrees to provide mortgage relief, it should confirm the details in writing. Take time to read through the agreement. And be sure to ask your mortgage servicer any questions you may have. You should make sure you understand all the terms before agreeing to the program. For example, the terms might require you to repay your missed payments in a lump sum immediately following the forbearance period.
What Relief Is Available for Renters?
The CARES Act also includes some protections for renters. But these protections apply only if you’re renting from an owner with a federally owned or backed mortgage. If that’s the case, your landlord can’t evict you because of nonpayment of rent until August 23 at the earliest (120 days after the CARES Act went into effect, plus 30 days after a notice to vacate is provided).
What Steps Do I Need to Take to Get Rent Relief?
There are a few steps you’ll want to take to try to get rent relief:
1. Contact Your Landlord
Explain how you’ve been financially impacted and ask about your options. Your landlord may be able to temporarily defer payments, reduce rent or waive late fees.
2. Check Whether You Qualify for CARES Act Protections
Ask your landlord whether your rented home has a federally owned or backed mortgage. Fannie Mae’s Disaster Response Network may be able to help you find out. Landlords with these types of mortgages must provide renters with certain protections.
3. Research Local Laws
Some state and local governments have suspended evictions and foreclosures, so you might be protected from eviction even if you’re not covered by the CARES Act.
You can also visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website. It includes additional resources for renters, including information for those living in HUD Multifamily Assisted properties or properties insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
What Should I Do Once I Receive Mortgage or Rent Relief?
Once you receive mortgage or rent relief, the CFPB recommends you take these steps to protect yourself:
- Keep your written documentation. Keeping copies of your relief agreement will help if you find errors on your mortgage or rent statements. It can also help if you need to show proof you’ve enrolled in a hardship program.
- Check your mortgage statements. You’ll still receive monthly mortgage statements even when you’re not making payments. Review these and check for errors. For example, your mortgage servicer can’t add extra fees, penalties or additional interest if your loan is federally backed. If you find errors, call your mortgage servicer to fix them.
- Stop or change auto-payments for your mortgage or rent. If your mortgage or rent payment is automatically deducted from your bank account, you may need to stop or change those automatic payments to avoid any fees or charges.
- Check your credit reports. Your lender is required to continue reporting your account as current to the credit bureaus if your account was current when you enrolled in a hardship program. It’s a good idea to routinely monitor your credit reports to make sure your lenders report your accounts correctly. And if you find an error, you can work to dispute it.
- Continue to pay your property taxes and insurance. If your mortgage has an escrow account, property taxes and insurance should be paid automatically. But you’ll want to check with your mortgage servicer. If your mortgage doesn’t have an escrow account, you’ll be responsible for these payments as well as homeowners association and condo fees during forbearance.
- Extend forbearance if you need to. Take a look at your finances once your forbearance period ends. If you have a qualifying federally owned or federally backed mortgage, you can request forbearance for another 180 days. Renters can discuss options with their landlords.
- Save any extra money. If you can pay all your bills and still have money left over, consider putting the extra money in a savings account. You may need it for financial emergencies down the road.
- Resume making payments. Once you have a reliable source of income, call your mortgage servicer or landlord and resume your normal payments. Remember, you’ll still owe any missed payments. Depending on the type of mortgage or landlord, you may be able to spread out the missed payments over a number of months during your mortgage or lease term. Or the missed payments could be added on to the end of your mortgage term. Some mortgage servicers could even require repayment with a lump sum—either immediately following the forbearance period or at the end of your mortgage term.
Need Additional Help With Your Mortgage or Rent?
If you’re having trouble paying your mortgage or rent, the most important step you can take is calling your mortgage servicer or landlord. They can help you consider next steps.
If you’ve exhausted all initial options for mortgage or rent relief and are still struggling to make payments, other options might be available. Homeowners may be able to get additional help if they still can’t afford mortgage payments after forbearance. And there are also protections for renters who are facing eviction or struggling to make rent payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.