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On September 10, FHA issued FHA INFO 21-7, which reminds mortgagees originating and/or servicing FHA-insured mortgages in the U.S. and its territories of guidance applicable in the event of a presidentially declared major disaster area (PDMDA) during the Covid-19 pandemic. For PDMDAs issued in connection with Covid-19, mortgagees must continue to follow existing guidance for borrowers already on a Covid-19 loss mitigation or recovery option. For all other borrowers, mortgagees must evaluate borrowers for all loss mitigation options available to them, which includes any applicable “PDMDA or COVID-19 Loss Mitigation Options or COVID-19 Recovery Options,” based on the reason for hardship. In addition, for all “mortgaged properties in areas covered by PDMDA declarations not related to the COVID-19 National Emergency,” FHA provides a number of other reminders to mortgagees, including: (i) FHA-insured forward mortgages secured by properties in a PDMDA are subject to a 90-day foreclosure moratorium after a disaster declaration; (ii) mortgagees should reach out to borrowers who may need loss mitigation assistance as soon as possible following the presidential declaration; and (iii) FHA-insured HECM loans secured by PDMDA properties that are due and payable for reasons other than the death of the last surviving borrower or the end of a deferral period due to the death of an eligible non-borrowing spouse are subject to a 90-day HECM foreclosure timeline extension.
On September 2, the FHA announced FHA INFO 2021-70, which issues the following temporary partial waivers to its Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) policies for those impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic: (i) the temporary partial waiver of Mortgagee Letter 2015-11, which allows mortgagees to offer repayment plans to HECM borrowers with unpaid property charges regardless of their total outstanding arrearage; and (ii) the temporary partial waiver of Mortgagee Letter 2016-07, which permits mortgagees to seek assignment of a HECM immediately after utilizing their own funds to pay property taxes and insurance on or after March 1, 2020, in addition to it eliminating the three-year waiting period for such assignments. Both waivers are effective through June 30, 2022.
The same day, the agency announced in FHA INFO 2021-71 the availability of the new COVID-19 Recovery Loss Mitigation Options training webinar, initially previewed in FHA INFO 21-61 (previously covered by InfoBytes here). The webinar is designed to help mortgage servicers and other stakeholders better understand the details of the new COVID-19 Recovery Loss Mitigation Options.
On September 1, HUD announced disaster assistance for certain Louisiana parishes impacted by Hurricane Ida, providing foreclosure relief and other assistance to affected homeowners. This followed President Biden’s major disaster declaration for the same parishes issued on August 29. Specifically, HUD is providing an automatic 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages for covered properties and is making FHA insurance available to those victims whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged such that “reconstruction or replacement is necessary[.]” Additionally, HUD’s Section 203(k) loan program will allow individuals who have lost homes to finance the purchase of a house, or refinance an existing house and the costs of repair, through a single mortgage. The program will also allow homeowners with damaged property to finance the rehabilitation of existing single-family homes. Flexibility measures for state and local governments, public housing authorities, tribes, and tribally designated house entities are also discussed.
On July 30, USDA, HUD, the VA, and FHFA extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoria until September 30. The extensions follow President Biden’s July 29 announcement, which asked federal agencies to extend their respective eviction moratoria through the end of September following the expiration of the CDC’s moratorium on residential evictions on July 31. While Biden called on Congress to pass legislation to extend the eviction moratorium following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which stated that “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31”, emergency legislation to extend the federal eviction moratorium through the end of the year did not pass the U.S. House.
USDA extended its eviction moratorium for homeowners of properties financed or guaranteed by USDA through September 30 and reminded servicers that the single family foreclosure moratorium will expire on July 31. After this date, no new foreclosure filings should occur until homeowners are reviewed for new options to reduce their payments and stay in their homes, USDA noted.
FHA also announced the extension of its eviction moratorium for foreclosed borrowers and their occupants through September 30. The moratorium applies to homeowners with FHA-insured Title II Single Family forward and Home Equity Conversion (reverse) mortgages, excluding legally vacant or abandoned properties (see Mortgagee Letter 2021-19). The extension is intended to ensure borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages are not immediately displaced from their homes. FHA also noted the expiration of the foreclosure moratorium on July 31.
Additionally, VA Circular 26-21-14 extends eviction relief for properties previously secured by VA-guaranteed loans (including properties in VA’s Real Estate Owned (REO) portfolio through September 30, excluding vacant or abandoned properties.
Further, FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) will extend their moratorium on single-family REO evictions until September 30. The current moratorium was set to expire July 31. The REO eviction moratorium applies only to properties that have been acquired by the GSEs through foreclosure or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure transactions. FHFA also encouraged landlords of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac-backed properties to apply for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) before beginning the process of evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent, and directed tenants and landlords to the CFPB’s online Rental Assistance Finder.
Recently, FHA announced the extension of several Covid-19-related flexibilities for single-family lenders and servicers. Specifically, Mortgagee Letter 2021-16 will “allow industry partners additional opportunity to utilize flexible guidance related to” self-employment and rental income verification for case numbers assigned on or before September 30. Both extensions are applicable to Single Family Title II forward and Home Equity Conversion Mortgages. FHA is also extending temporary flexibilities for “the administration of 203(k) Rehabilitation Escrow guidance for borrowers in forbearance” for open escrow accounts through September 30. Additionally, Mortgagee Letter 2021-17 updates Single Family Quality Control (QC) requirements for appraisal field reviews and evaluation of property and appraisal documentation. FHA notes that the updated guidance applies to mortgages selected for Property and Appraisal QC review on or after July 1.
On June 25, FHA announced the extension of several Covid-19-related flexibilities in Mortgagee Letter 2021-15, which extends the foreclosure and eviction moratorium in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic, expands the Covid-19 forbearance and the home equity conversion mortgage (HECM) extension, and establishes the Covid-19 advance loan modification (Covid-19 ALM). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in December 2020, FHA first extended its foreclosure and eviction moratorium through February 28. In the most recent extension, FHA further extended its foreclosure and eviction moratorium for all FHA-insured single family mortgages, excluding vacant or abandoned properties, through July 31. For FHA’s Covid-19 forbearance policy, FHA expanded the date to request an initial Covid-19 forbearance from June 30 to September 30 and provided an additional three-month extension to the forbearance for borrowers who began their initial forbearance between July 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. FHA also established the Covid-19 ALM, which, among other things, “offers borrowers who are currently 90 or more days delinquent, or at the end of their COVID-19 forbearance, the opportunity for a 30-year rate and term mortgage modification that will bring their mortgage current and reduce the principal and interest portion of their monthly mortgage payment by at least 25 percent” and establishes a Default Code. FHA also expanded the HECM Covid-19 extensions by “providing an additional three-month extension to HECM borrowers, where an initial HECM extension period began between July 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020.”
On June 22, FHA published an announcement with a reminder that certain relaxed Covid-19-related standards that had allowed for single-family lenders and servicers to limit face-to-face contact as part of the mortgage origination process for FHA loans would expire as intended on June 30. The temporary guidance, which was first announced last March to provide flexibility related to the re-verification of employment guidance and the exterior-only appraisal scope of work option, was extended several times during the pandemic (covered by InfoBytes here). FHA noted that due to low usage it believes that the expiration of the guidance will have minimal impact on the industry.
On June 18, HUD issued Mortgagee Letter 2021-13, which provides updates to its student loan monthly payment calculations to offer greater access to affordable single family FHA-insured mortgage financing for creditworthy individuals with student loan debt. According to HUD, the revised policy more closely aligns FHA student loan debt calculation policies with other housing agencies, which further helps clarify originations for borrowers with student loan debt obligations. The updated policy eliminates a current requirement “that lenders calculate a borrower’s student loan monthly payment of one percent of the outstanding student loan balance for student loans that are not fully amortizing or are not in repayment.” According to HUD, the updated policy “bases the monthly payment on the actual student loan payment, which is often lower, and helps home buyers who, with student debt, meet minimum eligibility requirements for an FHA-insured mortgage.”
On May 28, FHA announced the publication of Mortgagee Letter (ML) 2021-12, which clarifies the eligibility of FHA-insured financing for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and amends employment documentation requirements for citizens of the Freely Associated States and individuals with H-1B status. ML 2021-12 also updates requirements for certain non-permanent residents seeking to obtain insured mortgage financing under FHA’s Single Family Title I and Title II forward mortgage insurance programs. FHA notes that while the guidance may be implemented immediately, it must be implemented for mortgages with case numbers assigned on or after July 26, 2021.
On May 7, FHA issued a notice clarifying when it is appropriate to begin reviewing borrowers for loss mitigation options outlined in the “Review of Borrowers in a Pandemic-Related Forbearance for a Covid-19 Loss Mitigation Option.” The notice acknowledges that some mortgagees are unsure about when to start reviewing borrowers for Covid-19 loss mitigation options. The notice points out that FHA requires mortgagees to review borrowers for Covid-19 loss mitigation options “upon the completion or expiration of the borrower forbearance period.” For clarifying purposes, however, the notice highlights that mortgagees may review borrowers for Covid-19 loss mitigation options “at any point prior to the completion or expiration of their COVID-19 or other pandemic-related forbearance period.” Not only is it permissible for a mortgagee to undertake a loss mitigation review before the borrower exits forbearance, FHA actually urges mortgagees to review borrowers for available Covid-19 loss mitigation options “as soon as practicable as these options are designed to help borrowers resolve their delinquencies and avoid foreclosure.”
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