We mentioned Mortgage Forbearance earlier as a helpful tool for homeowners who are having trouble with their mortgage payments. Forbearance is when your mortgage servicer or lender allows you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a limited time while you build back your finances. The CARES Act (passed back in April of 2020) required that when a mortgage is backed by a Federal Agency, the borrower is automatically eligible for 3-6 months of forbearance if they are experiencing financial hardship resulting (directly OR indirectly) from COVID-19. Forbearance creates a helpful reprieve for struggling families.
The deadline to apply for forbearance under the CARES Act is September 30, 2021 IF your mortgage is backed by HUD/FHA, USDA, or the VA! That means NOW is the time for action. NOTE: if your loan is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there is not currently a deadline for requesting an initial forbearance.
Not Sure About Your Mortgage? Contact your mortgage company and ask them about your mortgage — asked if was backed by any of the agencies listed above. It that answer is “yes,” and if you are struggling with payments and bills, apply right away: ask your mortgage company to provide the needed application materials.
What does it mean to have your mortgage “backed” by a government agency? That simply means that when you bought your home, you qualified for special terms – often a lower down payment, reduced fees, or preferential interest rate thanks to a government program. I remember that when I bought my first house it was an FHA Loan; many first-time homebuyers qualify for special terms, and others do as well. If you are not sure, there is no harm in asking!
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides more information about forbearance. Financial assistance for homeowners at imminent risk of foreclosure may be available as well; the Iowa Finance Authority provides more information, about help that is currently available, and notes that more assistance, authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act, will be available within the next several months.
Because of COVID-19, an “eviction moratorium” has been in place in the U.S. for over a year. That has meant that renters could NOT be evicted for non-payment of rent. That moratorium ends July 31. If you (or someone you know) have gotten behind on rent OR utilities because of financial hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be eligible for financial assistance to protect your family. Applications will end when the available funds are used up; NOW is the time to apply! NOTE: Des Moines and Polk County residents apply through a separate portal.
Eligibility. To be eligible, all of these qualifications must be met:
- You have past-due rent or utility bills that were incurred after March 13, 2020.
- You are below income guidelines. These guidelines vary from county to county, and are based on family size as well. Example – for families of two, the income limit ranges from $46,000 to $63,800 depending on the county you live in. Use the Adjusted Gross Income figure from your tax return to check your eligibility.
- Someone in your household has been unemployed OR you have had reduction in income or other financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- You are at risk of homelessness or housing instability. You can use a past-due rent or utility notice or an eviction notice to show this.
Tips. As part of an application for rent assistance, your landlord must certify that you are behind on rent and must agree to the terms of the program. Be prepared to contact your landlord and explain that you are applying for help to get caught up with rent. Reminder: most landlords will be happy to help, because it means they will get paid – the payments will go directly to them.
The Housing Recovery Helpline is available to answer questions about the program or the application at 855-300-5885 or 515-348-8813.
If you are threatened with eviction, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau outlines steps to take. In addition, Iowa Legal Aid may be able to help you. Information about applying for Legal Aid assistance is found here. The Iowa Concern Hotline from ISU Extension and Outreach is another source of legal information – they do not represent clients, but they can help you identify steps you can take to protect your rights. Call them at 800-447-1985.
Not a Renter, but need help? Assistance for homeowners who are at imminent risk of foreclosure is also available through the Iowa Finance Authority, with the same income guidelines.
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