In a glimmer of good news for homeowners affected by Hurricane Ian, mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration say they’ll allow borrowers to skip payments while they recover from the Category 4 storm.
Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida last week, bringing 155 mph winds, storm surge and torrential rains. Millions of homes worth billions of dollars sat in the path of the Category 4 storm.
While it could be weeks before public officials and insurers know the extent of the damage, Florida’s state-backed homeowners insurer says it had received 29,000 claims for property damage as of Oct. 5.
What type of disaster assistance is available?
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac don’t deal directly with borrowers, but the government-sponsored enterprises buy most of the residential mortgages issued by U.S. lenders. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is a government agency that likewise backs mortgages issued by private lenders.
Fannie Mae says homeowners in Florida and other affected states can ask for mortgage assistance by contacting their mortgage servicer, the company that collects your monthly payments.
Fannie Mae’s mortgage servicers can offer a forbearance plan for up to 90 days — even without reaching the homeowner — if the servicer believes the home was affected by the disaster.
Fannie and Freddie both say homeowners affected by Ian are eligible to reduce or suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months. During this temporary reduction or pause in payments, borrowers won’t be charged late fees.
What’s more, foreclosure filings and other legal proceedings are suspended. Those terms are similar to the payment pauses offered by Fannie and Freddie during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the forbearance plan, homeowners have a number of options to catch up on missed payments, including Fannie’s Disaster Payment Deferral.
In addition to claiming lives and causing physical damage, major hurricanes also roil the financial lives of homeowners. Some percentage of property owners inevitably discover that they didn’t carry flood insurance — and that neither the standard homeowners policy nor the supplemental windstorm policy covers damage from rising waters.
Another wrinkle is that rising building costs and a shortage of homes for sale might leave homeowners insured for less than they’ll spend to repair or replace their homes. The damage from Hurricane Ian is expected to intensify both Florida’s lack of affordable housing and the chaos in the state’s property insurance market.