Rent and Utility Assistance: Charlotte City Council recently approved an additional $8 million dollars of CARE’s Act funding to allow the expansion of the current Rent and Mortgage Assistance Program (RAMP Charlotte). This program includes rent and utility relief for tenants, long-term hotel guests, homeowners with mortgages, and hotel and property managers. Individuals who earn 80 percent or below the Area Media Income (AMI) who face a COVID-19 hardship and cannot make housing payments can apply for rent or mortgage assistance.
The Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program is a new statewide initiative that may provide rent and utility assistance to eligible low- and moderate-income renters experiencing financial hardship due to the economic effects of COVID-19. HOPE will provide rent and utility assistance for renters that:
- Have been affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic
- Have a household income that is 80% of the area median income or lower
- Occupy the rental property as their primary home, and
- Are behind on their rent or utilities when they apply.
Read more and apply here.
HOMES Property Tax Assistance: Need assistance with paying your property tax? The Charlotte-Mecklenburg HOMES program reduces the total amount of taxes due for a qualifying recipient’s primary residence. The amount granted will be equal to up to 25% of the Mecklenburg County tax amount on the last available tax bill, rounded to the nearest dollar, not to exceed $440. To learn more about eligibility and how to apply, click here.
General Evictions: (September 10th) Evictions proceedings can and are taking place in Mecklenburg county. However, the federal government, through the Center for Disease Control, has announced a temporary halt on evictions through December 31, 2020 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Under the order, landlords and property owners are prohibited from evicting certain tenants impacted by COVID-19. Learn more about the order and qualifications here.
Additionally, according to Gov. Cooper’s executive order, your landlord is required to give you six months to pay rent owed between May 30th and June 20th, 2020. During the six-month period, your landlord cannot move to evict you based on non-payment of the June rent. This does not prevent the landlord to for moving to evict a tenant for a reason other than non-payment. Additionally, a landlord may be able to evict a tenant for rent that is owed prior to May 30th.
The Order’s evictions moratorium:
- Would prevent landlords from initiating summary ejections or other eviction proceedings against a tenant for nonpayment or late payment of rent;
- Prevents landlords from assessing late fees or other penalties for late or nonpayment;
- Prevents the accumulation of additional interest, fees, or other penalties for existing late fees while this Order is in effect;
- Requires landlords to give tenants a minimum of six months to pay outstanding rent;
- Requires leases to be modified to disallow evicting tenants for reasons of late or nonpayments; and
- Makes clear that evictions for reasons related to health and safety can take place.
Utilities: (July 30th) Gov. Cooper’s moratorium on utility shutoffs ended July 29th, 2020. Some utility companies can now begin the process to shut off your utilities (water, gas, and electric) for non-payment. Phone and internet access were not included in the moratorium against utility shut offs.
Gov. Cooper’s utility shutoff moratorium still:
- Prohibits billing or collection of late fees, penalties, and other charges for failure to pay for utility bills owed from March 31st to July 29th, 2020; and
- Extends repayment plans at least six months, and sets the default term for repayment to six months for cases when the utility and customer cannot agree on the terms of an extended repayment plan.
Read more about the Gov. Cooper’s moratorium on utility shutoffs.
However, the NC Utility Commission has ordered all utility companies under its jurisdiction to not resume disconnections before September 1st, 2020. This effectively extends the moratorium on utility shut offs for one month for some, but not all, companies and NC residents. This order also extends the grace period for repayment of utilities owed from six to twelve months, doubling Gov. Cooper’s order. This includes utility providers such as Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas but does not include municipal or county systems.
Evictions from hotels/motels: (April 3) N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein is protecting residents who live in hotels or motels as their primary residence from being evicted by reminding businesses that they need to follow the law by not allowing self-help remedies such as changing the locks in order to evict a tenant. New eviction proceedings are on hold in N.C. courts (see below). Stein reminded businesses that trying to evict guests without a court order is a violation of N.C. landlord-tenant and consumer protection laws.
Eviction and Foreclosure in N.C. Courts: From the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court, Mecklenburg County: “Given ongoing concerns about COVID-19, a soft reopening of Mecklenburg County Courts will begin on June 1, 2020. Mecklenburg County Courts will employ a phased-in-approach in which courtroom operations will expand based on priorities set forth by Chief Justice Beasley.
Mecklenburg has recently started to conduct foreclosure hearings:
- If your loan is federally-backed, you should contact the attorney handling the foreclosure and tell them about the foreclosure protection through August 31, 2020. Plan to attend the hearing unless you are told it is being continued.
- If you have requested a Forbearance and get a hearing notice, contact the foreclosure attorney and let them know and tell the Court hearing officer that you have a forbearance.
- If you have health issues, contact the Court and the attorney handling the foreclosure right away about continuing the hearing. You cannot enter the Courthouse with any COVID-related symptoms.
- Wear a mask and check requirements of entering courthouse here: Mecklenburg Courthouse Modified Operations
- Contact CCLA Consumer Protection Program with questions or concerns at 704-376-1600.
What to Know about Mortgages and Mortgage Relief: (July 15th)
Pay Your Mortgage if You Can Afford It
- Payments skipped will still become due. Depending upon your mortgage, you may not be happy with the repayment options offered; in some cases you may have to pay a large lump sum. Also, mortgage companies will make a mistake when processing repayment plans – these errors can be very difficult to fix.
If you Cannot Pay your Mortgage, there may be relief available
- Not all mortgages qualify for the same payment relief. See below.
- Requesting a Forbearance is better than letting your loan go into default. Once in default, other fees begin to accumulate on the account.
- Under federal law, the foreclosure process cannot start until you are more than 120 days past due. COVID forbearances/moratoriums may extend that time for certain mortgages.
“Federally-backed” mortgages have certain rights under the federal CARES Act
What Loans Are Federally Backed?
- FHA/HUD mortgages and HECM Reverse Mortgages
- For FHA loans, that may be indicated on your mortgage statement. Or, check the first page of your closing documents from when you bought the house (HUD-1 statement).
- VA (Veteran’s Administration) mortgages
- Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac backed mortgages
- Go to www.knowyouroptions.com/loanlookup to see if you have a Fannie Mae loan
- Go to www.freddiemac.com/corporate/ to see if you have a Freddie Mac loan
- USDA (Department of Agriculture)
- A list of federal loan agencies, their policies, and contact information is here
What rights do homeowners with “federally-backed” mortgages have?
- First, your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you until at least August 31, 2020. The CARES Act and guidance from Fannie/Freddie, FHA, VA, and USDA, prohibit mortgage companies from beginning a foreclosure, or from finalizing a foreclosure judgment or sale. This protection began on March 18, 2020, and extends through at least December 31, 2020. CFPB link
- Federally-backed mortgage companies must provide a Forbearance, if requested, due to financial hardship experienced during the COVID-19 emergency period. You should not have to provide additional documents other than the request affirming your hardship.
- Forbearance plans provide borrowers with payment relief for up to 12-months and suspend borrower late charges and penalties. It also suspends reporting to credit bureaus of past due payments of borrowers who are in a forbearance plan as a result of COVID-19 hardships..
- You are eligible even if your loan was delinquent before the COVID emergency. If you have experienced a hardship during the COVID emergency, the forbearance should be granted once requested.
- All forbearance payments will have to be paid back. Do not ask for one if you do not need one.
- A forbearance must be granted up to 180 days. Then a borrower can request another 180 days.
Additional assistance available to homeowners with “federally backed” mortgages:
- Through its Disaster Response Network, Fannie Mae also offers additional
help to homeowners with a Fannie Mae-owned mortgage,, including:
- A needs assessment and personalized recovery plan;
- Help requesting financial relief from insurance, servicers, and other sources; and
- Web resources and ongoing guidance from experienced disaster relief advisors
- Homeowners can find out if they have a Fannie Mae-owned mortgage and access to the Disaster Response Network here.
- Homeowners can contact Fannie Mae directly at 1-800-2FANNIE (1-800-232-6643). Get more information about your options.
What if I don’t have a federally-backed mortgage but still have a financial hardship?
- Contact your mortgage company as soon as possible. Many private mortgage companies are also granting forbearances. Try by phone, or on the online website if you cannot get through.
- Make sure you ask about and understand the repayment options at the end of the forbearance. Ask that it be sent to you in writing.
- Ask for assistance in writing about the repayment and loss mitigation options available to you if you do not have a federally-backed mortgage.
- Contact a free HUD-housing Counselor. Never pay up front for mortgage assistance. Make sure any housing counselor is HUD-certified here: HUD free counselors and info
What about property taxes and homeowner’s insurance?
- If your account is escrowed (meaning the taxes and insurance are paid through your mortgage payment, the mortgage company should continue to pay them during the forbearance.
- Borrowers who do not have an escrow account should continue to pay their property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, and other home-related items directly, if possible.
Problems with COVID Forbearances or other mortgage company issues
- Borrowers who believe they have been improperly denied a forbearance or have other problems with their servicer should submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau using its complaint portal.
- Borrower’s whose mortgage companies are regulated by the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks can file a complaint here NCCOB complaint
NCLC Coronavirus: What Borrowers Need to Know
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: CFPB Covid Mortgage Info