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Updates

Mortgage Companies Offer Relief

This is a pretty interesting development that’s been taking shape over the past few weeks. In addition to some actions taken by cities, counties, and states to stop evictions and foreclosures, quite a large number of banks and financial institutions are taking voluntary steps to help folks out.

This is encouraging, especially compared to what happened during the Great Recession, where the mass foreclosures were a huge part what locked things up last time.

If all these companies and governments work together, we might actually be able to navigate our way out of this relatively quickly.

Wells Fargo, US Bank, Citi and JP Morgan Chase will defer mortgage payments for three months. State chartered banks and credit unions will offer similar deferrals. The banks also pledged not to initiate foreclosure sales or evictions for the next 60 days. And they promised not to report late payments to credit reporting agencies. Newsom said everyone is eligible, regardless of how much money they make. He said homeowners must submit “some form of documentation,” but did not give details.

Time.com

Wells Fargo

The bank said,

Wells Fargo is suspending residential property foreclosure sales, evictions and involuntary automobile repossessions. The company also is offering fee waivers, payment deferrals and other expanded assistance for credit card, auto, mortgage, small business and personal lending customers who contact the company. 

Wells Fargo Press Release March 20, 2020

US Bank

U.S. Bank has a comprehensive website on the pandemic, but said this about mortgages:

We are offering several customer assistance programs that may allow you to suspend mortgage payments for 90 days. If you are enrolled in this program, you will not be charged any late fees and your accounts will not be reported as delinquent during that time. If, after the initial 90 days, your hardship has still not been resolved, we will continue to work with you.

US Bank Statement captured March 28, 2020

Citi

Citi uses a mortgage servicer called Cenlar FSB and didn’t say much more than this–neither did Cenlar:

For eligible Mortgage Customers: A range of hardship programs through our service provider, Cenlar FSB. Please contact them at 1-855-839-6253 Monday-Friday 8:30am – 8pm ET and Saturday 8:30am – 5pm ET

March 28, 2020

Chase

I actually couldn’t find anything specifically written by JPMorgan Chase, but there’s a good CNBC article outlining how to contact them and outlines what other banks are doing too.

What does it mean legally?

This is kind of interesting too. The companies are changing their behaviors and policies for a while, but the lawyers and accountants are going to be busy trying to figure out how to document things to make sure everything comes together over time.


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Attorney advertising. Now and then I help people file for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code, but I do a lot more than that for my clients. As such I qualify as a debt relief agency, which I’m proud to say. Michael Rice is responsible for the content. 840 Apollo Street, No. 100, El Segundo, CA 90254

Categories
Updates

Hermosa Beach Closes the Beach

Up until today, I was saying to myself, “Well, you know, the beach is always free and easy to social distance. Pack yourself a sandwich and some water, grab a book, some water, and you’ve got a free and awesome day in LA, even if you are unemployed for a while.”

Well my own little one+ square mile city, Hermosa Beach, just put an end to that, and I think it’s the first or only Los Angeles County beach to do so. They also closed The Strand, which is going to create a mess of traffic on roads not truly equipped for bike traffic.

Of course, the main argument was that there were too many crowds at the beach, but I was there. It didn’t seem like people were having problems with social distancing on the super wide beach, it was mostly family groupings since the South Bay is super family friendly. Sure you could argue that hanging out on the beach in the first place was a violation of the “better at home orders,” I get that.

Saturday, March 21, 2020 in Hermosa Beach

Here was the key part of the alert from the City that I received in my inbox today, which feels both punitive and unsubstantiated:

These [outings] increased the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) because people were unable to maintain the required distance of at least six feet from non-household members. Public health experts also warned that the risk of COVID-19 transmission increases exponentially in crowds and the virus can remain on surfaces, such as benches and handrails, for up to 72 hours.

From a “COVID-19 alert” from the City of Hermosa Beach

I know it’s important to protect public health, and I’m not arguing we shouldn’t. What I am concerned about is that

  1. I didn’t get any notice of any hearing or due process
  2. the notice and press release were thin on facts
  3. there’s no explanation why Hermosa needs to move faster than Los Angeles County
  4. with regard to The Strand, there’s no balancing of concerns for bike and pedestrian traffic diverted from The Strand to the busy city streets, especially as traffic turns distinctly warm next week

In case you’re wondering why Hermosa Beach is the only city to do this, it’s because Hermosa actually owns the sand, whereas most (all?) of the other LA County beaches are actually controlled by the County, so the City seems to believe it can take these actions despite the procedural and substantive concerns I raised.

UPDATES: March 26 – Redondo Beach, Hermosa’s neighbor to the south, just closed “access” to its beaches as well. So maybe, it’s acceptable to be on the beach if you swam there or walked in from the Torrance beac?


Attorney advertising. Now and then I help people file for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code, but I do a lot more than that for my clients. As such I qualify as a debt relief agency, which I’m proud to say. Michael Rice is responsible for the content. 840 Apollo Street, No. 100, El Segundo, CA 90254

Categories
Hope Updates

Current Status

In today’s post, I’m going to do a quick round up of where things are with efforts to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. The big legal news over the past 24-48 hours is whether Congress will pass the huge bill I mentioned earlier. The idea behind this is to put a lot of cash and financial support into the economy to keep things afloat.

The stock market jumped 11% today because investors think it might pass, and late tonight it sounds like lawmakers reached a deal, so it should pass soon. Let’s hope $2 trillion is enough! Will definitely need to write a lot more about this tomorrow.

The other big looming news that I’m watching nervously to see what happens on Thursday. The government counts up all the unemployment claims from the states and then releases the number early afternoon on Thursday. Some are expecting as many as 2.25 MILLION newly unemployed people over last week and this week. That would be breathtaking.

Finally, and this just came out tonight, LA’s Mayor, Garcetti, announced that he would shut off the water to nonessential businesses that refuse to close, saying the peak in cases here in LA is about 6-12 days away. This is a very bold move, and I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of arguments about whether he can or can’t legally do that, but it won’t matter in the short term.

More about what you can and can’t do right now

Lots of conversation these days here in the LA area about what it means to “stay in place.”

The weather is turning nicer than usual, so this weekend I noticed a lot people were at the beach, including me to be honest. On the sand, anyway, it felt like people were staying pretty far apart. My family was. On the sidewalks leading to it, not so much, which is maybe why a lot of the cities are closing the parking lots near the beaches. I think San Diego County closed all the beaches.

It seems to me that if you’re getting some exercise at the beach, then that should be permitted. If you’re throwing a party with your friends around a bonfire at Dockweiler, that should not be.

I have a bad feeling if people keep flouting the rules, there will be pressure to lock down tighter. If you break the “safer at home” orders, then the police could charge you with a felony, but I don’t think they’re at that point yet.

This post on LA Curbed is a fairly useful summary: Coronavirus Los Angeles: What’s closed, where you can go

The latest on mortgage payments

Up until this pandemic hit, if you couldn’t make your mortgage payment, then the bank could eventually foreclose on your house. Over the past couple of weeks, however, the federal government has “suspended” forecloses.

That’s good, especially if you’re unemployed, can’t readily get a new job, and unemployment benefits aren’t enough to cover you.

However, the way the foreclosure suspension actually works for you will vary depending on what kind of loan you have. If your loan is backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, or Rural Home Services, then click on the link for the details.

If your mortgage is not back by those agencies, then the Federal Reserve gave some helpful guidance to your mortgage company (they call them “mortgage services”) on some technical details about how to work with you.

Keep in mind that, even if you get a temporary break on your mortgage during this pandemic, it’s likely that you will have to make up the lost payments somehow, eventually. That’s the way they did it during the Great Recession.

You might not be sure what kind of loan you have. I’ll try to go into some more detail soon!

What about rent?

Sixty percent of rent in California. With rent, an eviction usually happens more quickly than a foreclosure. The State of California did something kind of interesting to suspend or slow them down during the pandemic.

On March 16, Governor Newsome basically told the cities that they could restrict evictions if they want to and if your landlord is trying to evict you because you lost income or your expenses increased. Put differently, my read is that people who aren’t being financially impacted by this can’t simply decide they aren’t going to pay April’s rent.

As of my last look, the Governor’s Order expires at the end of March, but I would he would surely expand it, as would the cities.

Student loans

Unlike evictions, it sounds like EVERYONE with a Federal student loan will automatically get 60 days interest free on their loan. EVERYONE can suspend payments for two months to keep a little more cash in their pocket, but there are some reasons why some of you might not want to do it.

The announcement came out March 20, but it’s retroactive to March 13.

CHECK THOSE AUTO PAYMENTS FOLKS—especially with a new month just around the corner!!!

Details here: Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents

Utility payments

The telecom companies have promised not to terminate your service if the effects of the pandemic prevent you from being able to keep up with your payments.

In California, most (maybe all) utilities won’t be disconnected if you can’t pay. This gets a little complex if the utility service is being run by a county or city in California, but I would think almost all of them, by now, are following the same policy.

Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric are following the same policy.

Robocalls

I know, I know–you don’t care about robocalls right now! I just thought this would be a random legal “thing” you wouldn’t expect from a pandemic.

Remember robocalls, one of the other things that our shared hatred of united before coronavirus? Well the F.C.C. just gave hospitals and healthcare provides permission to go ahead and robocall and text you about health alerts for a bit. Makes sense.


On the bright side

It seems like New York City is entering the darkest hours of the pandemic right now, and Garcetti said Los Angeles would be doing the same over the next six to twelve days.

That sounds scary to be so close to the peak, but I want to reflect on it for a second. While this could go on for a while after it peaks, I for one am ready to get the darkest days behind us.

Not to trivialize the pandemic, but I hate December 21 because it’s the darkest day of the year. The days leading up to it and following it are pretty dark too, but at least, on December 22, the days start getting just a few minutes longer each day.

We’re almost there 🙂

Stay safe!


Attorney advertising. Now and then I help people file for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code, but I do a lot more than that for my clients. As such I qualify as a debt relief agency, which I’m proud to say. Michael Rice is responsible for the content. 840 Apollo Street, No. 100, El Segundo, CA 90254