Monday, March 30, 2020

New Jersey Unveils 90-Day Mortgage Grace Period in Wake of Pandemic

By Linda Moss CoStar News

Working with financial lenders, New Jersey has arranged for a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments throughout the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as confirmed cases of the illness rose to 11,124, No. 2 in the nation.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled the mortgage-relief initiative for home owners financially hurt by the outbreak Saturday at a press briefing in the state capital in Trenton. The governor's announcement only pertains to residential mortgages, not those on commercial properties, according to a spokesman for his office. New Jersey now also has a 60-day ban on evictions.

Murphy, in an initiative that "closely mirrors" one underway in California, said the Garden State secured support from Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America in addition to over 40 other federal and state-chartered banks, credit unions, and servicers to offer financial protection to New Jersey home owners. More financial institutions are preparing to sign on in the coming days, according to a statement from the governor's office.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a similar mortgage forbearance arrangement with Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo last week. And on Friday Newsom ordered a statewide eviction moratorium, which bars residential landlords from evicting tenants unable to make their rent as a result of lost work, illness or being left to care for a family member because of the virus.
A number of states, not only California but New York and others, have ordered moratoriums on mortgage payments and evictions as residents financially struggle because of the health crisis, which has resulted in thousands of layoffs as businesses are forced to close. The Empire State has the most confirmed coronavirus cases nationally, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo reporting 52,318 as of Saturday.

April 1 looms

New Jersey's action comes in time to help those worried "as that April 1 payment date loomed especially large and foreboding," Murphy said, and builds on an earlier ban on evictions.

"Put together a 90-day grace period and a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions means many New Jersey families can breathe easier, keep their heads above water and have a place they can continue to to call home," the governor said.

Under New Jersey's plan, residents who are struggling financially as a result of COVID-19 may be eligible for relief but must reach out to their financial institutions.

Participaing lenders would offer, consistent with applicable guidelines:

  • Mortgage-payment forbearance of up to 90 days to borrowers economically impacted by the pandemic;
  • Provide borrowers a streamlined process to request a forbearance for COVID-19-related reasons, supported with available documentation;
  • Confirm approval of and terms of forbearance program;
  • Provide borrowers the opportunity to request additional relief, as practicable, upon continued showing of hardship due to COVID-19.

The New Jersey Bankers Association, CrossState Credit Union Association and the Mortgage Bankers Association of New Jersey have endorsed the mortgage-payment moratorium and are encouraging their members to adopt these policies, according to a statement from the governor's office.

No harm to credit rating

Home owners who take advantage of the mortgage forbearance won't see their credit ratings negatively impacted as a result, according to Murphy.

During his press conference, Murphy said for at least 90 days, financial institutions will waive or refund mortgage-related late fees and other fees, including early CD withdrawals, subject to applicable federal regulations, for customers who have sought assistance.

Last week, Murphy signed an executive order that imposed a moratorium on removing individuals from their homes pursuant to an eviction or foreclosure proceeding while the order is in effect. Tenants cannot be asked to leave their homes for nonpayment of rent during this time. Building on that order, mortgage lenders have committed to not initiating foreclosure sale or evictions for at least 60 days, the governor said.

The state Department of Community Affairs has received an additional $13 million in federal funds as part of its annual renewal for the Section 8 voucher Program, according to the governor. These funds, based on New Jersey increased use of the prgoram last year, "are critical to helping current voucher tenants maintain their housing stability during the coming year," the governor's office said in a statement.

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