Banks, Lenders Extend Sandy Assistance to Homeowners

Banks are offering extended relief to homeowners in areas affected by superstorm Sandy in the form of loan forbearance and fee waivers, making a small dent into the billions of dollars in damages that are expected.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reminded mortgage servicers last week that homeowners in places that are declared disaster areas by President Obama were eligible for federal assistance programs. In some cases mortgage payments could be delayed for up to one year, Freddie Mac said.

Over a million homes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are still without power, as residents face the dangers of dropping temperatures. New York City's low on Monday was forecasted at 30 degrees.

Homes in Rockaway Beach in Queens, N.Y., and Staten Island, N.Y., are still uninhabitable because of flooding or lost power.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a news conference on Sunday, "This is going to be a massive, massive housing problem."

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Fannie Mae encouraged homeowners with homes that were damaged by Sandy or those who have difficulty paying their mortgage to reach out to their mortgage servicers, which are the companies listed on their monthly mortgage statement. Fannie Mae said some may qualify for a 90-day mortgage forbearance, which can temporarily suspend or reduce mortgage payments in some cases.

Banks like Chase and Wells Fargo are helping waive fees and assisting homeowners for everything from overdraft fees to mortgages.

"To help our customers focus on their safety and recover from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, we are proactively waiving all mortgage related fees and absorbing any costs associated with delayed closings," said Kevin Watters, head of mortgage originations at Chase.

Chase had had to postpone several hundred closings due to Sandy, according to Waters, as homebuyers have been unable to physically get to a home closing.

As millions of people

This week, Chase announced that mortgage customers affected by Hurricane Sandy in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia can obtain a 90-day moratorium on making mortgage payments. The bank advises these customers to call 888-356-0023 and choose option 1 for mortgage.

Chase customers were issued automatic fee waivers through Wednesday for overdraft protection, late fees for payments toward credit cards, and student, consumer and business loans.

Wells Fargo is extending assistance to residents in areas affected by Sandy, following guidance from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The two mortgage companies have offered similar guidance during past natural disasters, though it is too early to tell how customer damage compares to Hurricane Irene or other past events, said Tom Goyda, vice president of corporate communications for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

Goyda said he did not have specific numbers of customers who have contacted the bank for assistance.

Wells Fargo customers in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia are encouraged to contact the bank immediately to discuss mortgage payment arrangements or to get assistance with handling property insurance loss claims.

Wells Fargo customers who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy and need assistance may call 1-800-TO-WELLS (1-800-869-3557) or can visit Wells Fargo store when normal hours of operation resume.