Some homeowners now have more time to seek coronavirus-related mortgage relief

For anyone having trouble paying their mortgage due to coronavirus-related circumstances, an important deadline to ask for help has been extended.

  • By Kate Giammarise/WESA

(Pittsburgh) — For anyone having trouble paying their mortgage due to coronavirus-related circumstances, an important deadline to ask for help has been extended.

The CARES Act allowed homeowners with a federally-backed mortgage to ask for forbearance, which is temporarily suspending or reducing payments. Under the legislation passed by Congress earlier this year, homeowners can ask for this for up to 180 days, as well as a second 180-day extension period.

The deadline to request assistance was set to expire on December 31, this has been extended to February 28.

But don’t wait, state officials said.

“When people face financial hardship, they often become fearful about talking to their lender,” Robin Wiessmann, executive director and CEO of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, said in a statement. “In fact, they should talk with their bank or servicer as soon as possible because that is when they have the most financial options available to stay in their home. Communications is key to ensure consumers don’t miss out on any forbearance option.”

However, forbearance only delays payments, cautioned Tim Arthun, deputy secretary for financial services at Pennsylvania’s Department of Banking and Securities.

“Forbearance is not forgiveness,” Arthun said on a December phone call with reporters. “At the conclusion of the forbearance period, the homeowner will be responsible for paying back any missed mortgage payments.”

If you aren’t sure if you mortgage is guaranteed by a federal agency, you can contact your loan servicer by checking the information on your monthly statement. Other mortgage lenders might have assistance available as well.

“For homeowners who have mortgages that aren’t covered under the CARES Act, the key is communicating with their loan servicer before an individual has trouble making payments,” Arthun said.

Additional information about CARES Act mortgage forbearance is available here from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or here from the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities.

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