CoreLogic estimates that about 70% of the flood damage in Houston was uninsured. Lenders are worried about everything from lost closing packages to forced-placed insurance policies. The ABA estimates about 1,000 bank branches were impacted by the unprecedented rainfall and flooding of Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Harvey comes at a time when the National Flood Insurance Program owes $24.6 billion to the Treasury already. This will put pressure on a program that is expiring this month. The impact of Harvey following Katrina means bankers should prepare for extreme regulatory scrutiny around all things flood-related at upcoming exams.
With the odds increasing that Irma will impact U.S. holdings, including Florida, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is busy indeed. Those impacted should register with FEMA online, in person at a disaster recovery center or by calling 1-800-621-3362. They should also have their homeowner’s insurance company contact info, plus flood or earthquake insurance company, if either applies, and their mortgage servicer.
What if a borrower can’t pay their mortgage? If the disaster makes it impossible to make monthly house payments, borrowers should ask their servicer for mortgage forbearance. A forbearance allows one to stop making payments for an agreed-upon time. In a forbearance agreement, one might make partial payments or stop making payments for a specific time. Generally, a forbearance lasts up to six months and can be extended up to another six months. Interest still accrues during the time the debtor isn’t making full monthly payments. But under a forbearance agreement, the lender won’t charge late fees or report them to credit bureaus.
Of course, the lender/servicer will want the mortgagor to catch up on missed payments after the forbearance period is over. That might involve paying extra every month for a few years, modifying the loan, or reaching some other negotiated agreement. Freddie Mac spread the word that if applicable, a mortgage loan is in forbearance for 24 months, Freddie will repurchase the loan from its mortgage participation certificates.
Some borrowers talk with a Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counselor before agreeing to forbearance. HUD: 1-800-569-4287.
There is also aid available. Direct federal aid consists mostly of loans from the Small Business Administration which oversees delivering disaster-related loans to individuals and families. The SBA extends loans at favorable interest rates to replace or repair primary residences. Someone can borrow up to $200,000 to cover renovation or construction costs, and regardless of whether someone is a renter or a homeowner, the SBA will lend you up to $40,000 to replace personal property such as clothing, furniture, appliances and vehicles.
FEMA offers grants to fill in gaps between insurance payouts and SBA loans. The maximum grant is $33,300 per household for disasters that happen in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2017. Grants can be used for expenses such as basic home repairs that aren’t covered by insurance, temporary rent and disaster-caused medical and child care. For more information, read the section called “What Does Individual Assistance Cover?”
The Federal Housing Administration has a program that’s designed to help disaster survivors rebuild or buy replacement homes. Under the Section 203(h) program, the FHA insures mortgages for people whose homes were destroyed or damaged in disasters. Borrowers don’t have to make a down payment.
Even when a house is destroyed the mortgagor should continue paying on the note until they have talked with the servicer and have reached a settlement with the insurance company. After all, the borrower promised to repay the loan when they signed the mortgage documents at closing. The borrower is liable for the loan debt, and making their payment is part of the borrower’s contractual obligation.
Servicers are contacting borrowers. In response to Hurricane Harvey, Freddie Mac is allowing servicers to “verbally grant” 90-day forbearances, and Fannie Mae is letting servicers grant 90-day forbearances “even if they cannot contact the impacted homeowner immediately.”