Strong @ Home: 6 Things Atlanta Homeowners Should Know Right Now

There is a lot of information circulating about how the Coronavirus is impacting housing in Atlanta. If you are having challenges keeping up with it all, you’re not alone. To help, we’ve compiled a few highlights to empower you to remain in your residence, while the city stays home, together.

Last revised July 22, 2020

The Mayor of Atlanta halted certain evictions for 60 days. But if I own my home, do I still have to pay my mortgage?

There are currently no local orders or federal legislation that forgive mortgage payments.

For homeowners, mortgage assistance depends heavily on the type of home loan you have.

The federal government has temporarily halted foreclosures and extended deferred payment plans (often referred to as mortgage forbearances) on properties whose mortgages are federally backed, but this order does not clear homeowners of their financial obligations to lenders during this time unless they work out a payment plan directly with their lender. For more information on these options, please see the answer to “How do I know whether my residence falls under of the categories protected from foreclosure?” below.

The federal government has temporarily halted foreclosures and extended forbearances on properties whose mortgages are federally backed, but this order does not clear homeowners of their financial obligations to lenders during this time, unless they work out a payment plan directly with their lender.

The intent behind these orders is to allow residents facing financial hardship (job loss, reduction in pay, reduction in hours, etc.) due to the Coronavirus to have more time to make their payments without threat of immediate foreclosure or financial penalty.

BUT, if you are in a mortgage agreement or contract that requires you to pay on the debt, your mortgage payment is still due.

So, if I don’t have my mortgage payment because I lost my job or am receiving a reduced paycheck because of the Coronavirus, what am I supposed to do?

If you are unable to pay your mortgage, please contact your bank or lending agency right away. Let them know that you are facing financial hardship due to the Coronavirus and would like to know if there are any modified payment plans available.

Many banks and private lenders have established programs or deferred payment plans to assist homeowners who are facing financial hardships due to the Coronavirus. Business Insider has compiled a list of private banks that are offering Coronavirus-related mortgage payment assistance. If your mortgage is backed by one of the banks in this guide, you may have available options, but the terms of the plans vary by bank.

If you have a mortgage that is backed by a Federal loan, you may request forbearance for up to 180 days.

Proactive communication is key. Again, please contact your lender as soon as possible. Do not assume your lender is aware of your financial state. Your mortgage payments remain your responsibility, so work with your lender to find a plan to manage them as best you can during this difficult time.

How do I know whether my residence falls under any of the categories protected from foreclosure?

Your mortgage could be owned by a bank, or your bank may be acting as a service provider for a federally backed loan (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA).

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Agency offers this resource to help you determine who owns your loan.

If your single-family mortgage is federally backed, the Federal Housing Finance Agency provides three layers of protections for your single-family home:

  • Lenders are prohibited from initiating foreclosures for 60 days beginning March 18, 2020.
  • Homeowners who are facing financial difficulty due to the Coronavirus may request a delayed payment plan for up to 180 days. At the end of the 180 days, homeowners have the option of applying for an extended payment plan if their financial conditions have not improved.
  • Late payments will not be reported to any credit bureaus or reporting agencies.

In order to receive a payment plan through a federally backed mortgage, you must contact your bank or lending agency directly to begin the process. Experts advise that hold times could be higher than usual during this period, so call when you are best able to wait patiently to speak with a lending specialist. When on the phone, we recommend taking notes to the best of your availability.

Once your payment plan is granted, be sure to ask how and when your deferred payments will be due. Different lending institutions will establish different ground rules, so be sure you fully understand the terms of your repayment before you finalize any new plans with your lender.

Finally, be sure to get your payment plan terms in writing. If your lender does not automatically send you a confirmation letter that spells out the terms of your payment modification, send a letter or email to your lender restating your financial hardship and the revised payment plan that were agreed upon during your call. Include the number that you dialed, the date and time of the call, the name of the lending agent or customer representative you spoke with, any case or confirmation number assigned to you, and everything you can remember about the details of the new payment agreement. Be as specific as possible, as this will serve as the official record of your new agreement until an official written agreement arrives from your lender.

What should I do if I do not have a federally backed loan, and my lender attempts to foreclose my home during this period?

If your lender initiates a foreclosure proceeding on your property, please contact a lawyer right away. Your lawyer will help you determine your best course of action.

What should I do if I cannot pay my utility bills because of Coronavirus-related financial hardship?

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an Executive Order halting the termination of water service in Atlanta through August 30th.

For more information about utility disruption suspensions, you may visit the Public Service Commission’s website at www.psc.ga.gov.

As with other bills, we recommend making payments to the best of your ability. If you are having difficulty paying any of your utility bills during the Coronavirus pandemic, please contact your service provider directly and notify them of your financial hardship BEFORE you cease payment.

Who can I contact at the City of Atlanta if I have additional questions about available support and resources during the Coronavirus pandemic?

The City of Atlanta is here to serve you, especially during this difficult period. If you have a specific question or are in need of help, please call our nonemergency help line by dialing 311.

You may also email Coronavirus related questions to atlstrong@atlantaga.gov.

Please also sign up to receive Coronavirus related updates via text. You may register on the homepage of this website, www.atlstrong.org.

Disclaimer: The information on this webpage is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not intended, nor shall it be construed, to be a complete recitation of the provisions contained in the respective source document(s) referenced herein, which you are expressly advised to obtain and fully review for yourself. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from the City of Atlanta; nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. The City of Atlanta assumes no responsibility or liability for any incorrect/incomplete information obtained herein, or any misinterpretation of the provisions cited, and you are expressly advised to seek independent advice and consulting regarding the subject matter herein from the consultant of your choice. The City of Atlanta reserves the right to modify, expand or withdraw any or all information contained herein at any time without notice.

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