The California wildfires continue to spread across the state, and now the government-sponsored enterprises are stepping up to offer help to victims whose homes have been destroyed.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sent out a reminder to servicers, saying homeowners impacted by the fires are eligible to stop making mortgage payments for up to 12 months. During this time period, they will not incur late fees or have delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus.
Fannie Mae servicers also have other options available, such as suspending or reducing a homeowner’s mortgage payments for up to 90 days without any contact with the homeowner if the servicer believes the homeowner has been affected by a disaster.
Servicers can also suspend foreclosures and other legal proceedings if the servicer believes the homeowner has been impacted by the disaster.
“Our thoughts are with the families and communities impacted by the devastating California wildfires,” said Carlos Perez, Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief credit officer. “Fannie Mae and our servicing partners are focused on ensuring mortgage assistance is available during this challenging time.”
“We urge everyone in the area to be safe, and we encourage homeowners affected by the fires to contact their mortgage servicer for assistance as soon as possible,” Perez said.
Freddie Mac announced its disaster relief options are available for borrowers with homes in Federal Emergency Management Agency-declared disaster areas. It also announces that even in areas FEMA has not made individual assistance available, servicers can use forbearance programs to provide immediate mortgage relief to those affected by the wildfires.
“Once out of harm’s way, we strongly encourage homeowners whose homes or businesses have been impacted by the devastating California wildfires to call their mortgage servicer—the company to which borrowers send their monthly mortgage payments,” said Yvette Gilmore, Freddie Mac vice president of single-family servicer performance management. “We are committed to ensuring that homeowners receive the mortgage assistance they need to help them during this devastating tragedy.”
Freddie Mac’s servicers can also provide forbearance for up to 12 months and waive penalties and late fees.
Freddie Mac also reminded servicers to consider borrowers who work in eligible disaster areas, even if their home is outside the affected area.
Over the weekend, the fire claimed two more victims, bringing the death toll to seven. And the damage to homes continues to soar, surpassing $11 billion, according to one expert.
“The Carr Fire in Northern California continues to burn into its third week, with nearly 170,000 acres lost so far,” Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas said. “The emotional and human costs are, of course, immeasurable, as seven people have been killed, including two firefighters.”
“The economic impacts to the local real estate market will be felt for years to come,” Terrazas said. “Overall, about $11.15 billion in residential property has been lost or is at-risk. More than 1,000 homes already have been destroyed. An exact assessment can be done when the threat from the Carr Fire passes.”