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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Agencies announce additional actions to prevent Covid-19 foreclosures

Federal Issues Covid-19 Consumer Finance Mortgages Loss Mitigation Biden HUD Department of Veterans Affairs USDA Mortgage Servicing

Federal Issues

On July 23, President Biden announced additional actions taken by HUD, the VA, and USDA, which are intended to ensure stable and equitable recovery from disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and prepare homeowners to exit mortgage forbearance. According to the Biden administration, the goal of these new measures is to bring homeowners with HUD-, VA-, and USDA-backed mortgages closer in alignment with options provided for homeowners with Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages (covered by InfoBytes here). Specifically, mortgage servicers will be required or encouraged to offer new payment reduction offers to assist borrowers.

  • HUD. FHA announced enhanced Covid-19 recovery loss mitigation options to help homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages who have been financially impacted by the pandemic. Mortgagee Letter (ML) 2021-18 supersedes previously issued FHA-loss mitigation options, and will, among other things, require mortgage servicers to offer a zero-interest subordinate lien option to eligible homeowners who can resume their existing mortgage payments under the “COVID-19 Recovery Standalone Partial Claim” option. For borrowers that are unable to resume their monthly mortgage payments, FHA established the “COVID-19 Recovery Modification” option, which extends the term of a mortgage to 360 months at market rate and targets a 25 percent principal and interest (P&I) reduction for all eligible borrowers. Servicers may start offering the options as soon as operationally feasible but must begin using the new options within 90 days. These additional options supplement FHA Covid-19 protections published last June (covered by InfoBytes here), which extended the foreclosure and eviction moratorium, expanded the Covid-19 forbearance and home equity conversion mortgage extension, and established the Covid-19 advance loan modification.
  • VA. The VA also announced it will offer a new “COVID-19 Refund Modification” option to assist veterans impacted by the pandemic who need a significant reduction in their monthly mortgage payments. Under the plan, the VA will be able to purchase a veteran’s past-due payments and unpaid principal—subject to certain limits—“depending on how much assistance is necessary,” and, in certain circumstances, veterans will be able to receive a 20 percent payment reduction (certain borrowers may be eligible to receive a larger reduction). Mortgage servicers will modify the loan to ensure veterans can afford future mortgage payments. Similar to the VA’s “COVID–19 Veterans Assistance Partial Claim Payment” (covered by InfoBytes here), the deferred indebtedness will be established as a junior lien, which will not accrue interest, will not require monthly payments, and will only become due once the property is sold or the guaranteed loan is paid off or refinanced. The option is available through September 30, 2021.
  • USDA. The agency announced new Covid-19 special relief measures, as well as clarifications to existing policies, for servicing borrowers impacted by the pandemic. USDA noted that Chapter 18 Section 5 of Handbook-1-3555 will be expanded to include “COVID-19 Special Relief Alternatives,” which includes an option that targets a 20 percent reduction in a borrower’s monthly P&I payments and offers “a combination of interest rate reduction, term extension and mortgage recovery advance.” These measures are immediately available and will be effective through December 31, 2022. Eligible borrowers must occupy the property, must not be more than 120 days past due on March 1, 2020, and must have received an initial forbearance due to a pandemic-related hardship before September 30, 2021.
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