Homeowners who fell behind on their mortgage payments and other expenses during the pandemic can now apply for help through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s website.
The state is urging financially troubled homeowners to apply for assistance available to pay past-due mortgage and utility payments, property insurance, delinquent property taxes, homeowner association fees, case management services and other housing-related costs.
Qualifying households can receive up to $50,000, but in most cases payments will be made directly to the mortgage servicer, insurance company, or utility that the homeowner owes.
Applications are being accepted at www.FLHomeownerAssistance.org. To be eligible, applicants must document that they experienced pandemic-related financial hardship after January 1, 2020. There’s no deadline, meaning the financial hardship could have begun long after January 2020 or could be ongoing.
Florida received $676 million as part of a $9.9 billion COVID-19 relief package approved nearly a year ago by Congress and President Biden. The department has pledged to distribute at least $575 million after allocating 15% for allowable administrative expenses. More than $1 million has been provided to 137 applicants through a pilot program launched in November, the department said in a news release.
Registering online is just the first step toward approval. If the program’s case workers determine that an applicant is likely to be eligible, the applicant will be asked to provide documentation of the financial hardship, as well as how much they owe.
Homeowners eligible for mortgage assistance include those who entered forbearance. That means they stopped making payments after the federal government enacted an emergency order requiring mortgage servicers of federally backed loans — about 70% of all home mortgage loans — to allow them to do so.
In South Florida, homeowners entered forbearance at rates far exceeding the national average. By June 2020, forbearance rates in South Florida peaked at 18.9% in Broward County, 22.1% in Miami-Dade County and 15.3% in Palm Beach County. In Central Florida, rates peaked at 20% in Osceola County, 15.1% in Orange County, 10.1% in Seminole County and 11.5% in Lake County.
Federally backed loans include those guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Veterans Administration, the Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The emergency order provides a number of repayment options for consumers with those loans, including shifting the unpaid months to the end of the loan.
But homeowners whose mortgage loans are not federally backed did not qualify for forbearance under the emergency order. While some lenders allowed their borrowers to skip mortgage payments, they were not required to shift unpaid months to the ends of loans and some lenders have been demanding that borrowers repay their debts in a lump sum to keep their loans in good standing.
This article is written by Ron Hurtibise from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.