Tag Archives: forbearance

Should You Apply for a Forbearance?

Lots of creditors are offering forbearance deals right now.   The thing to remember about a forbearance is that it doesn’t erase the debt — and that can be either a useful tool or an anchor around your future neck.

The first thing I will tell you about any forbearance agreement is to read it — all of it.  Ask questions, especially about the pay back and especially about interest rates and fees.  What will it ultimately cost you?  Then consider what it is that you are forbearing and what are your other options.

Credit cards are offering forbearance plans, and they can be really nice tools.  Ask all the questions, and then ask yourself one more.  What is the likelihood that I will be filing for bankruptcy before I get this account paid in full?  Remember, forbearance agreements are intended to be repaid, but if it is an unsecured debt and you wind up filing for bankruptcy anyway, the balance owed at the time that you file for bankruptcy is not likely to be repaid regardless.  So, doing a forbearance deal with credit card companies can be a useful tool, especially if it frees up cash for you to stay current on your home, your car or your utilities.

I will caution you that borrowing money with the intention of filing for bankruptcy and not repaying it is called bankruptcy fraud, and it is seriously illegal.  So, don’t enter into any agreement with the intention of not following through.  Understand, however, that intentions and future realities can differ for many very real reasons — including the simple fact that we are living in very uncertain times.

Many utilities are offering forbearance options as well.  Do what you have to do to keep the lights and the water on, but do stay informed about the policies and regulations governing shutting off service.  Knowing that can help you negotiate a better deal.  Also, if you wind up filing for Bankruptcy, the utility companies have some special rights.  They can require a new deposit in order to continue providing service after the case is filed.  Of course, you will have to pay for all service as the bills come due after you file as well.

Mortgage forbearance offers are different.  They frequently simply defer a few months payments with the expectation that they will all be repaid in a lump sum at the end of the forbearance period.  Sorry, but that is neither likely nor helpful.  A second option can be to apply for some type of permanent loan modification at the end of the forbearance period.  That would be more helpful (depending on the terms of the modification), but it can be difficult to predict at the beginning of the forbearance period what the likelihood is of getting a favorable modification some months in the future.

Counting on a future modification can wind up with a mortgage account falling further and further behind with not just missed payments but also a host of fees assessed by the mortgage company.

A mortgage forbearance may also add the missed payments to the end of the mortgage term.  Consider carefully how the accrual of interest will effect this.  I am frequently surprised by the number of people who don’t do the math to figure out just how much that forbearance will cost them.  It may still be the right decision, but once your future straightens out a bit, it may be very wise to start making small payments every month towards getting those payments paid sooner.

Another thing to consider is that a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is one of the best tools for getting current on a mortgage.  So, if you take a forbearance agreement hoping that you will get a loan modification or an extended time to get the payments current — and that doesn’t work out.  A Chapter 13 filing can give you up to five years to cure a mortgage arrearage.  A Chapter 13 filing can also deal with credit cards that have forbearance balances and give you limited abilities to get utility services back in good standing.

Always remember, no matter how bad things look, it is always worthwhile to know your options, and that includes knowing what a bankruptcy will or won’t do for you.

Elaine

 

 

 

Mortgage Payments and Coronavirus

Before you call your mortgage company to find out what they can, or will, do to help you through this current mess we all find ourselves in, there are a couple of things you should know.

First, your mortgage company is going to have lots of options, and the first person you talk to may – or may not – know all of them.

Second, what your mortgage company can do for you will depend in large part on one thing — do they own your mortgage or are they merely the servicer.  You probably have no idea, but it doesn’t hurt to ask when you call.  If you write your mortgage check to Bank of America, they may actually own your loan — which is kind of what you expect.  On the other hand, your loan might be owned by a securitized trust that hires Bank of America to accept and process payments, make sure the taxes and insurance get paid that sort of thing, i.e., service the loan.  If your mortgage company is just the servicer and not actually the owner (or holder) of your note and mortgage, what they can do for you will be determined by their contract with the actual owner (sometimes referred to as the investors, although, that is not technically accurate).

Third, if your mortgage loan is insured by a U.S. Government program, that will also control, at least in part, what options your mortgage lender has.  That means that if you have an FHA insured loan or a VA insured loan or Fannie or Freddie, you can expect there to be regulations from FHA or VA or Fannie or Freddie or USDA Rural housing or whomever that will tell your mortgage company what they can and can’t do and what they should and shouldn’t do.

I know it is confusing, but knowing enough to ask your servicer for specifics can take some of the frustration out of the process.  You may read a news article about things that your mortgage company says it will do for home owners, only to call and be told that what you read in the news doesn’t apply to you.  Ask why it doesn’t apply to you, and then make sure it is right.  Mortgage companies really do make mistakes — often.

The next thing you need to know is to ask follow up questions.  You call your mortgage company, you are out of work until your employer reopens, what can they do for you.   They say they can agree to a 3 month deferment on your mortgage payments.  No payment necessary for three whole months!  Not so fast.  Your next question should be — and then what?  What happens to those three missing mortgage payments?  I can promise you that they won’t just go away.  There are a number of possibilities (including the one that I’m not thinking of, so please don’t assume this is a complete list).

One answer to this that I am already hearing is that after the three month deferment the missing mortgage payments are all due at once — along with the next month’s payment too.  So, the mortgage company won’t expect you to make payments for three months, but it will then expect you to bring those missing payments current at the end of the deferment period.  That is probably not a great option.

Another answer is that the missing payments will be added to the end of your mortgage loan.   That is a better option, but it is also not a great option.  Here is why.  Let’s say that your mortgage payment is $1000 a month on a 30-year-loan (360 months) with interest at 6%, and you are in month 99 (almost through with year 9).  Those three mortgage payments will defer to the end — with interest accruing for the next 21 years.  Now, I was an English major, and someone else should always check my math; but according to my calculations that means when you complete the 30 years of your original mortgage term, you will still owe over $10,000 — all because of those three missed payments.  So, if you are going to do this put yourself on a schedule to pay extra every month.  Then, at least once a year check your payoff against an amortization schedule to make sure you are getting those missing payments paid before the interest gets out of hand.  Oh, also ask how the escrow payments (taxes and insurance) will be handled.  If the lender advances the escrow portion of those payments you could wind up with a significant payment increase in the next year after your next escrow account analysis.

The next option is that you may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of the three months.  If you are, certainly apply for whatever you are eligible for.  Again, I will caution you to read the terms of the proposed modification carefully.  Historically, principal reductions have been rare on mortgage mods.

Probably the best option is for the mortgage company to put you on a schedule after the deferment period to cure the missed payments over a reasonable period of time.  If you can get it done in no more than a year, that is probably your best option.

Ultimately, however, if you and your mortgage lender can’t come to an agreement that you think is in your best interests, you might want to consider what a chapter 13 bankruptcy can do for you.  Chapter 13 is designed to give home owners an affordable means to cure a an arrearage or default on their mortgage.  In a chapter 13 you can take up to 5 years to cure a default, and deal with whatever other debt you have accrued along the way as well.

Elaine