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Mortgage Industry Supports Hurricane Victims

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All around the mortgage industry, primary and secondary lenders are coming to the aid of borrowers impacted by the severe devastation from Hurricane Harvey.

Images of
people wading and boating through the flooded streets of Houston — the nation’s fourth-largest city — have dominated the news cycle since Harvey made landfall on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane.

So far, death toll estimates are as high as 15 people as a result of the hurricane. Rainfall from Harvey, which has stalled over the Houston area, can be measured in feet. The Los Angeles Times reports that around 30,000 people are in shelters.

Mortgage-industry service provider CoreLogic Inc. estimated early on that as much as $2 billion in losses to insured properties could result  from wind and storm surge damage — though some more recent estimates of losses are as high as $60 billion.

Secondary mortgage lender Freddie Mac said Tuesday that it would suspend all evictions and foreclosures for 90 days in the hurricane’s major disaster areas. In addition, Freddie has pledged not to pass on any inspection fees tied to Harvey to borrowers.

“In consultation with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Freddie Mac is requiring servicers to take additional steps to help homeowners in presidentially-declared major disaster areas where federal individual assistance programs are offered to affected individuals and households,” the statement said.

Last week, McLean, Virginia-based Freddie clarified that foreclosures can be suspended for up to 12 months through forbearance. In addition,
assessments of penalties or late fees against borrowers can be waived, and forbearance or delinquencies resulting from the disaster don’t need to be reported to the credit bureaus.

Fannie Mae issued a similar statement on Friday indicating that impacted borrowers’ payments can be temporarily suspended or reduced for up to 90 days. And like Freddie, Fannie will allow up to six months’ forbearance.

Washington-based Fannie reminded primary lenders that any loans being sold to Fannie with properties in the impacted areas will require a verification of the property condition.

On Monday, Wells Fargo & Co. announced it would donate $1 million to support victims of the hurricane. The American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund will get $500,000, and local nonprofits will receive the other $500,000.

Also donating $1 million to the cause is JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has 6,400 employees in Houston. In addition, Chase will waive late fees for impacted customers on mortgages and other loans and revolving credit accounts. It will also waive overdraft, monthly service and ATM fees on deposit accounts.

Regions Bank issued a news release indicating that it will waive automated teller machines fees for its own customers withdrawing from other bank’s ATMs and for other banks’ customers using its ATMs. It is also waiving other fees and penalties.

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