The Credit Counseling Center Can Help Homeowners
With the federal moratorium on foreclosures expiring this summer, Bucks County homeowners facing difficulty paying their mortgage may be particularly concerned.
Don’t panic, says Joan Reading, president of the association Credit counseling center headquartered in Richboro with offices in Levittown and Doylestown.
“You don’t need to seek legal assistance as we help you through the legal process so you don’t lose your home,” she said. Center staff will accompany a client to court if needed and services are free, she said.
The CCC helped homeowners avoid foreclosures long before the COVID crisis hit. The non-profit company offers free advice to homeowners in default of their mortgage payments through the Bucks County Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program, which was established in 2009.
Over the past year, the CCC has been able to help some county residents obtain grants from the CARES Act to pay off late mortgage payments. But so far, only three clients have met the criteria to receive total grants totaling $ 43,500, said Jeffrey Fields, director of the Bucks County Department of Housing and Community Development.
“If a household was eligible for a partial claim (meaning you can transfer the amount owed back to your mortgage), the household was not eligible for assistance as it would have to pursue this solution,” said said Fields. People whose mortgage companies did not allow partial claims received grants because they faced “more immediate foreclosure” without the financial assistance, he said. “Others received counseling to help them with their situation, but no financial assistance.”
Bucks County woman, divorced mother of two school-aged children, received a grant of $ 10,000 for six months of payments owed on her mortgage after losing her leadership position in the travel industry during the pandemic . She had previously been in contact with the CCC to learn budgeting skills after her divorce. She called the association for advice on how to handle her mortgage when she lost her job and unemployment covered only a third of the money she was making.
“Fortunately, I contacted them on my budget,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “It was a godsend that I knew from this organization… They sent a check directly to my mortgage company… They were able to help me be up to date (on mortgage payments)”, a- she declared.
She said when the money came in December it made her Christmas. She could enjoy it with her children. And she’s found a part-time job to help her keep paying her mortgage as she actively searches for a full-time job as travel picks up.
But the CCC client said she had to do her homework to learn about federal programs available to help homeowners in need. “Do your research. There is help but you have to dig to find it.”
Reading said that when the moratorium on foreclosures expires at the end of July, based on the federal government’s latest directive, “families can be overwhelmed by the prospect of losing their homes and, sadly, for many. families, their economic conditions may not have improved over the past year to allow them to resume their payments. Our Seizure Prevention Program will guide families through the very complex and often stressful seizure prevention process. ”
According to Federal Housing Finance Agency, People who have mortgages guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and have been given forbearance – permission to delay their full or partial mortgage payments – by February 28, 2021, are eligible for continued forbearance until 18 month. Homeowners who filed for forbearance later have up to 12 months.
Fields said most Bucks County homeowners directly affected by the economic downturn caused by the COVID crisis and who needed mortgage relief had already been referred by the county to the CCC for advice. In most cases, the CCC has submitted its utility bills to the county to recover the costs of the council. The county did not give the agency an outright grant, Reading said.
In 2020, CCC assisted 195 clients facing mortgage foreclosure; in 2019, it helped 398 people, so there were more than twice as many people with mortgage problems even before the pandemic started asking for help compared to last year.
But Reading believes pandemic closures have actually prevented people from seeking mortgage advice. As this subsides, more people can use the agency’s services.
Fields said the situation is more serious for tenants who can be evicted when the federal moratorium on evictions is lifted. It was due to be lifted at the end of this month, but another extension was granted on Thursday.
Since the CARES Act funding expires this year, any new funding to help homeowners will come from the US bailout.
Nearly $ 10 billion nationwide has been allocated to the Homeowner Assistance Fund, and Pennsylvania is expected to receive $ 350 million from this allocation to help homeowners avoid foreclosure as well as pay their bills. utilities and other housing bills when they are in a financial crisis.
“We have yet to hear how this funding will be distributed,” Fields said.
Reading said each person’s mortgage situation depends on their finances, which bank or other financial institution they got their mortgage from and how long they have to pay it off.
While all situations are different, one thing is a priority: Every homeowner who is behind on their mortgage payments should contact both their lender and CCC to alert them of their financial difficulties.
The CCC was founded in 1994 to provide advice “to help people pay off their debts, improve their credit scores, revise their budgets, buy their first home and prevent foreclosures,” its website says. It is federally funded Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and through donations and grants.
“CCC has worked successfully for over 10 years with financial institutions, service providers and borrowers facing default, default and foreclosure,” Reading said. “CCC has documented advisory capacity, outreach capacity, successful past performance, and positive outcomes with documented counseling plans that include mortgage foreclosure mitigation advice, loan recovery agreements and settlements. loan modification. “
In many cases, forbearance does not mean borrowers don’t owe the money owed on their mortgage, just that they have more time to figure out how they will make their payments. Reading said the services CCC provides help clients fully understand what they need to do to save or sell their home without resorting to foreclosure and to improve or protect their credit rating.
“We have been in seizure (situations) for years. There are a lot of tools in our toolbox,
Reading said. And, she added, people “don’t have to be in financial trouble” to use the agency’s services to learn how to repay their debts, establish an emergency fund and save for their own. retirement as well as other financial goals.
The offices of the Credit Counseling Center are located at 832 Second Street Pike in Richboro, 11 Welden Drive in Doylestown and 208 Levittown Parkway in Levittown and can be reached at 215-348-8003.