Single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages who are struggling financially amid the pandemic now have through Dec. 31 to submit an initial forbearance request. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week that it’s extending the deadline, originally set for Oct. 30, for those needing to make an initial COVID-19–related forbearance request to their lender.
The change puts FHA’s forbearance actions in line with its extended foreclosure moratorium, which expires Dec. 31.
“By providing this important extension, FHA seeks to assist those struggling with the continued financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dana Wade, HUD assistant secretary for housing and federal housing commissioner, in a statement. “Our goal is to make sure that no homeowner loses their home unnecessarily as a result of this pandemic.”
For homeowners who request it, the FHA requires lenders to provide up to six months of COVID-19 forbearance. Six more months can be added for homeowners who request an extension from that initial forbearance.
About 400,000 homeowners are “needlessly delinquent,” said Urban Institute researchers Laurie Goodman and Michael Neal in a report earlier this month. These homeowners are eligible for forbearance but have not taken it. This has led to a growing number of homeowners who are delinquent on their mortgages but don’t need to be, the report notes.
HUD stresses that homeowners who can still make their mortgage payments should continue to do so, but there are options for those who can’t. “For those who are struggling right now, we urge them to engage with their servicer immediately,” says Joe Gormley, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for single-family housing. “And if your servicer contacts you, it is crucial that you respond to them to let them know if you need assistance. The last thing FHA wants is for any homeowner to risk losing their homeownership investment if they are eligible for assistance.”
Real estate professionals can help educate at-risk borrowers about mortgage forbearance options. The National Association of REALTORS® offers at realtorparty.realtor a downloadable brochure called Protect Your Investment that outlines what homeowners should ask lenders about their options and payback requirements when considering forbearance.
You can also direct clients to a video, produced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and HUD, that helps homeowners understand and explore their options for forbearance. It’s available through HomeownershipMatters.realtor or at the CFPB website.
As for relief efforts in the rental market, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used its authority in the name of public health in September to place an eviction moratorium to prevent landlords from evicting certain renters nationwide for the remainder of the year. NAR has strongly urged Congress and the Trump administration to approve rental assistance so the moratorium doesn’t lead to a cascading housing crisis in which housing providers face delinquencies and tenants face ever-increasing back payments on rental units. Read more about NAR’s efforts.