(BPT) - Millions of U.S. homeowners facing financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic have sought mortgage payment relief, or forbearance, allowing them to temporarily pause or reduce their monthly mortgage payments. According to the mortgage data firm Black Knight, as of March 2021, approximately 2.6 million U.S. homeowners remain in an active forbearance plan. It’s important they know their options for what happens next.

Early in the pandemic, Fannie Mae, a leading provider of home loan and rental housing financing in the U.S., launched an online portal at KnowYourOptions.com with interactive resources to help homeowners and renters, including clear explanations of mortgage forbearance, when it may be an option, and steps to get started.

For those who are still feeling the financial impact of COVID-19 or those newly impacted by the economic fallout, it’s not too late to get help.

“We encourage homeowners and renters facing financial hardship to visit KnowYourOptions.com to learn what options may be available, and to contact their mortgage servicer or landlord to make a plan,” said Malloy Evans, senior vice president, Fannie Mae. “It’s our top priority to help keep people in their homes."

Steps for extending or exiting mortgage forbearance

According to Black Knight, more than 800,000 homeowners who opted for forbearance will reach the end of their 12-month plan this spring. Those who are still facing financial hardship may be eligible to extend for up to six additional months. Homeowners interested in seeking an extension should contact their mortgage servicer (the company they send their monthly payment to).

Those homeowners who are ready to begin making their monthly mortgage payments again have access to a number of options such as:

  • Reinstatement allows homeowners to pay any missed amounts all at once, if they are financially able to do so.

  • A repayment plan enables homeowners to resume making their regular monthly mortgage payment, plus an additional portion of the missed amount each month, until the missed amount is paid off, if they are able to do so.

  • Payment deferral might be a good option for those who are unable to reinstate or afford a repayment plan but can resume their monthly mortgage payments. This defers any missed payments to the end of the loan term when it is paid off. Interest is not charged on the deferred amounts. The deferred amounts are due earlier upon the sale or transfer of the property, refinance, or payoff of the loan.

  • Loan modification is another option where the original loan terms — such as the interest rate or term of the loan — could be permanently changed to make a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment more manageable moving forward.

A new, interactive virtual assistant at KnowYourOptions.com can provide homeowners with an informed recommendation for their financial situation, which they can discuss with their mortgage servicer. Servicers will also contact homeowners approximately 30 days before their forbearance plan is scheduled to end to discuss extension and exit options.

Have questions? Homeowners and renters looking for answers can visit Fannie Mae’s website at KnowYourOptions.com.