Laid off? Don’t wait to defer mortgage payments, counselor says

MVI housing counselor offers tips, help for homeowners

Homeowners who have been laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic should act quickly to see if mortgage payments and other bills can be temporarily deferred.

That’s the advice of Jonathan Weaver, a housing counselor at Mon Valley Initiative, who says most lenders are willing to be flexible — but deferments are not automatic.

“Losing your job, even temporarily, is traumatic, and your first instinct is probably to hide,” Weaver says. “But you need to act now, before your mortgage payment is late and before your other bills are in collection.”

He says being on-time with mortgage payments is one of the most important factors that credit reporting agencies use in computing your credit score.

“Call your mortgage company, call your credit card companies, and explain your situation,” Weaver says.

Nearly 3.3 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week after many businesses were forced to close. Banks and lenders understand the current economic crisis, Weaver says.

“Many of them will be sympathetic,” he says, “but they don’t know what your situation is until you call and ask for help.”

If you have a mortgage through the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., commonly called “Freddie Mac,” or the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as “Fannie Mae,” you can request a deferment, Weaver says.

Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, or PHFA, is also being proactive, Weaver says. The agency has promised a temporary hiatus on foreclosure proceedings, and to stop all negative credit reporting for its customers during the pandemic, he says.

Homeowners who need post-purchase housing counseling or referrals to resources may call Weaver at MVI at 412-464-4000, ext. 4008, or email him at jweaver@monvalleyinitiative.com.

Housing counseling from Mon Valley Initiative is provided free of charge and is supported through grants and donations.

March 30, 2020