If Irene Wrecked Your Home or Job, You Might Get Mortgage Forbearance

If Hurricane Irene seriously damaged your house or you’re not getting a paycheck because the storm is preventing you from working, you may be able to catch a payment break on your mortgage. Most banks will listen to your story and decide on a case-by-case basis whether to grant “forbearance,” which is lender-speak for not having to make mortgage payments.

Some banks are forgoing late fees for customers who live in the storm zone. Chase waived late fees until Sept. 4 for customers in 13 East Coast states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia). But don’t wait too long to get to the mailbox because you still have to get your payments to Chase by this Sunday.

For the most part, these are “No ask, no get” programs. So if you need a little more time to make your payment, contact your lender to let it know your house was damaged and that you need help.

When banks decide whether to help you, they follow policies set by the company that guaranteed your mortgage — most likely that’s FHA, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac. Those policies tell the bank how long you should have to get your financial affairs back in order and how to handle any insurance payouts for repairs to your home.

Those rules are pretty detailed. For instance, FHA has a program for borrowers who were facing foreclosure before the storm, but it only applies if you’re in a federal disaster zone and you were directly impacted by the storm. If you fit that bill, your lender should stop foreclosure for 90 days.

But don’t worry — this won’t be the first time your lender has dealt with post-storm issues, so it will know exactly what you have to do to get you the help you need.

Did you ask for more time to pay a bill because of Irene? What did the bank say?