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Many homeowners, tenants suffering from COVID fallout are eligible for federal relief

Homeowners with government-guaranteed mortgages who fall behind on their monthly payments because of the coronavirus pandemic can postpone their payments by up to a year, according U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

In new guidance for homeowners and renters released today, Schatz also announced relief for some renters. Property owners are prohibited from filing for eviction or charging any fees for unpaid rent until July 26 to tenants who occupy properties with federally-guaranteed loans, or properties that participate in federal housing programs.

“Lots of Hawaii residents are struggling to make their mortgage or their rent, and these programs can help tens of thousands of people who need it,” said Schatz. He recommended that homeowners and tenants call their mortgage servicers, their landlords, or a housing counselor to see if they are eligible for either forbearance or anti-eviction protections.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Trump on Friday, homeowners with mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 184a, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac are eligible for the loan forbearance program.

That program allows for a temporary postponement of mortgage payments for up to one year without fees, penalties, or additional interest. A foreclosure eviction moratorium is also in effect for many homeowners until May 17.

Homeowners in need of relief should reach out to their mortgage servicers as soon as possible or contact a HUD approved housing counselor. The nearest housing counselor can be found at www.consumerfinance.gov/find-a-housing-counselor or by calling (800) 569-4287.

More than 60 percent of all mortgages in Hawaii and across the country are backed by the federal government, according to the Schatz announcement.

As for renters, landlords are prohibited from filing for eviction or charging any fees for unpaid rent to a tenant in properties with federally-guaranteed loans or whose owners participate in federal housing programs. Those restrictions apply for 120 days from the enactment of the CARES Act on Friday.

Property owners must issue a notice to tenants to vacate 30 days before an eviction, and the notice to vacate cannot be issued during the 120 day period.

That protection covers properties that receive federal subsidies such as public housing, Section 8 assistance, USDA rural housing programs, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits, as well as properties that have a mortgage issued or guaranteed by a federal agency (including FHA and USDA) or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Additionally, owners of multifamily buildings with federal loans in forbearance may not evict tenants for unpaid rent or charge late fees or penalties until the loan exits forbearance.

Renters seeking information on whether they are covered by the moratorium should contact Legal Aid Society of Hawaii or a HUD approved housing counselor. You can find the nearest housing counselor by calling (800) 569-4287.

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