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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

VA extends Covid-19 loan deferment, clarifies forbearance timeline

Federal Issues Department of Veterans Affairs Forbearance Consumer Finance Mortgages Covid-19

Federal Issues

On September 29, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued circulars providing updates for servicers on assisting borrowers who continue to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Circular 26-21-19, servicers may continue to offer loan deferments as a home retention option to borrowers exiting a Covid-19 forbearance period. Servicers who select this option will defer repayment of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance “to the loan maturity date or until the borrower refinances the loan, transfers the property, or otherwise pays off the loan (whichever occurs first) and with no added costs, fees, or interest to the borrower, and with no penalty for early payment of the deferred amount.” The VA’s Covid-19 Home Retention Waterfall and Covid-19 Refund Modification guidance, issued in July (covered by InfoBytes here), provides that the loan deferment option may be used in situations where a borrower indicates that he or she can resume normal monthly guaranteed loan payments but cannot repay the arrearages. Additionally, the VA notes that in order “to relieve undue prejudice to a debtor, holder, or other person,” it is “temporarily waiving the requirement that the final installment on any loan shall not be in excess of two times the average of the preceding installments.” This waiver, the agency notes, is applicable only to VA’s Covid-19 Home Retention Waterfall cases. The Circular is rescinded July 1, 2023.

The same day, the VA also issued Circular 26-21-20 to clarify timeline expectations for forbearance requests submitted by affected borrowers. “For borrowers who have not received a COVID-related forbearance as of the date of this Circular, servicers should approve requests from such borrowers provided that the borrower makes the request during the National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.” The VA states that it expects all Covid-19 related forbearances to end no later than September 30, 2022.