DISCLAIMER: The information provided by Legal Aid of Nebraska is for informational purposes only. You should not rely solely upon this information in regard to you and your unique circumstances. You should always consult with an attorney regarding the laws and your rights. As the COVID-19 public health situation changes and evolves, different branches of our government will continue to issue new laws and regulations. While Legal Aid of Nebraska strives to keep the information on this page up to date, the information provided here may change on a day-to-day basis.

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Information for Homeowners

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Federal Mortgage Relief Programs

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Do I Still Need to Pay My Property Taxes?

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Information for Homeowners

If you have lost your job, have had to take time off from work because you are sick or need to care for a family member, have had to take an unpaid leave of absence, you can apply for Unemployment Benefits. Follow this link for more information.

If you are in need of other assistance, there may be resources available in your community to help. Call 211 to obtain information on possible community resources to help. https://www.unitedwaymidlands.org/2-1-1/

Federal Mortgage Relief Programs

CARES Act Relief from Foreclosure

The CARES Act provides foreclosure and forbearance relief if your home has a federally backed mortgage loan. Homeowners who have lost income due to COVID-19 can request their mortgage payments be temporarily suspended (forbearance) for up to 12 months. The Act also temporarily suspends foreclosures and foreclosure related evictions for at least 60 days from March 18, 2020. The CARES Act only applies to federally backed mortgage loans.

The National Consumer Law Center  has also provided a summary of relief available to homeowners under the CARES Act.

What does it mean to have a federally backed mortgage?

It means mortgage loans backed by the federal government. It is any loan secured by a lien on residential real property designed to be occupied from 1-4 families that is:

  • Insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) under title II of the National Housing Act
  • Insured under section 255 of the National Housing Act
  • Guaranteed under section 184 of 184A of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992
  • Guaranteed or insured by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • Guaranteed of insured by the Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Made by the Department of Agriculture (USDA); or
  • Purchased or securitized by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation or the Federal National Mortgage Association

This includes loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. About two-thirds of all home mortgage loans are federally backed.

How can I find out if my home mortgage is federally backed?

It is important that you find out if your loan is federally backed and which investor is the backer. You need your mortgage loan information to determine this. You may be able to find this information out by looking at an online website or calling your mortgage loan servicer (the bank or company who you make payments to). You can go to the National Consumer Law website or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website for information about how to find out who owns or backs your mortgage.

Can my home be foreclosed on if my mortgage loan is federally backed?

No, not for at least 60 days after March 18, 2020. No loan servicer (the company or bank you make your mortgage payments to) of a federally backed mortgage loan can start a judicial foreclosure (court foreclosure) or non-judicial foreclosure (non-court foreclosure, for example a deed of trust). Additionally, your loan servicer cannot ask for a court to order a foreclosure, order a sale of your home, or evict you as part of the foreclosure process.

What if I cannot pay my federally backed home mortgage?

If you cannot pay your mortgage, you can ask for and receive a forbearance (temporarily suspend making payments) for up to 180 days, and after that you can ask for and receive up to another 180 days of forbearance. Forbearance is not forgiveness – you still owe the amount you agreed to pay – your payments are just postponed to a later date.

Will my mortgage payments automatically stop because of the CARES Act?

No, your mortgage payments do not automatically stop. You must request a forbearance (temporary suspension) of your mortgage payment.

How do I ask for forbearance (temporarily suspend) on making mortgage payments?

If you are experiencing a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, you may request your mortgage payments stop temporarily (forbearance) on your federally backed mortgage loan by:

  • Contacting your loan servicer (the bank or company you make your mortgage payments to) and let them know you want to request a forbearance (temporarily suspend making your mortgage payments).
  • Asking your loan servicer the process to request a forbearance.
  • Sending the forbearance request to your loan servicer.
  • As part of your request, tell your loan servicer you are experiencing a financial hardship during the COVID-19 emergency.

Once your loan servicer gets your request, your loan servicer should provide the forbearance of up to 180 days (6 months). You should try to obtain written confirmation from your loan servicer about the terms of your forbearance.

If your financial hardship continues, you can request another forbearance for an additional 180 days (12 months total).

Will I be charged late fees during the forbearance (temporarily suspend payments)  period?

No. During the time your payments are in forbearance, you should not be charged additional fees, penalties or interest beyond what was already scheduled to be paid under the terms of your mortgage loan. 

Can I request a forbearance (temporarily suspend payments) even if I am delinquent (not current) on my mortgage payments?

Yes, the law says you can request a forbearance regardless of delinquency status.

Will my payments be reported as delinquent on my credit report if I request a forbearance?

It depends. If you were current on your mortgage payment when you received a forbearance, your account will continue to be reported as current. If your account was delinquent when you received a forbearance, it will continue to be reported as delinquent unless you bring your account current during the forbearance. The credit reporting provisions to not apply to an account that has been charged off. The CARES Act reporting requirements apply from January 31, 2020 until 120 days after the COVID-19 national emergency ends.

If my financial situation improves, can I start making mortgage payments again?

Yes, you can request the forbearance period be shortened. You should contact your loan servicer (the bank or company who you make your mortgage payments to) and let them know you want to start making payments, and the date you want to start making payments.

What if I have a federally backed mortgage on a multifamily residential property (5 or more dwelling units)?

This document prepared by Legal Aid does not address this fully. You should look for other resources. The CARES Act does provide some relief to borrowers of federally backed mortgages on multifamily residential properties, and also limits borrowers ability to evict tenants or terminate leases if a forbearance on mortgage payments is obtained.

What if my home mortgage is not federally backed and I am having trouble making my mortgage payment?

About one-third of all mortgages are not federally backed. The CARES Act provisions providing relief from foreclosure and the ability to receive a forbearance do not apply if your mortgage is not federally backed. Many banks or lenders do have programs that can help if you have a financial hardship. Here is what you can do:

  • Contact your bank or loan servicer (the company or bank you make your mortgage payments to) if you will not be able to make your full or a partial mortgage payment. If you are having trouble making payments, it is best to contact your bank before you become delinquent (late) on your payment.
  • When you contact your bank or loan servicer, ask what programs they have in place to help homeowners impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and follow any instructions you are given.  Many banks and lenders have programs to assist homeowners having trouble making their mortgage payments related to COVID-19, sometimes called hardship assistance or client assistance programs. 
  • Let your bank or loan servicer know you are not able to make your mortgage payment due to a hardship related to COVID-19 (like you got sick, lost your job, your hours were reduced, etc.).
  • Write down the date, who you talked to, and what they said related to paying your mortgage.
  • If any adjustments (accommodations) were made, (e.g. the bank agreed to provide you with more time to make your payment or the bank agreed to reduce your monthly payment) see if you can get written confirmation from the bank/loan servicer.

Please note the Fair Credit Reporting provisions of the CARES Act do apply to accommodations made by your bank or loan servicer related to your mortgage payment(s). If you were current on your mortgage payments when your bank or lender agreed to accommodate you in making your payments, (e.g. the bank agreed to provide you with more time to make your payment or the bank agreed to reduce your monthly payment) your account will continue to be reported as current so long as you fulfill the terms of your accommodation. If your account was delinquent when you received an accommodation, it will continue to be reported as delinquent unless you bring your account current during the forbearance. The credit reporting provisions to not apply to an account that has been charged off.  The CARES ACT reporting requirements apply from January 31, 2020 until 120 days after the COVID-19 national emergency ends.

Were there protections against foreclosure for federally backed mortgages before the CARES Act?

Yes. The FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had foreclosure relief available after the COVID-19 national emergency was declared, and available before the CARES Act was signed into law. The National Consumer Law Center has links to suspensions by Federally Backed Mortgage Investors in effect prior to the CARES Act available at this link.

Do I still need to pay my property taxes?

Property taxes still need to be paid if you own a home or other real estate in the State of Nebraska. Not paying your property taxes may result in you losing your home. Nebraska law allows for county treasurers to sell the taxes owed on your home, and through that process you can lose your home. Taxes are paid through your local county treasurer’s office.

How do I apply for the homestead exemption?

You may be eligible for property tax relief through the Nebraska Homestead Exemption Program. The deadline to apply for the homestead exemption is June 30, 2020. Applications need to be filed with your county treasurer. Information and forms are available at https://revenue.nebraska.gov/PAD/homestead-exemption.  Contact your county treasurer’s office for more information.

Those who may qualify for the homestead exemption are:

  • Persons over age 65
  • Veterans totally disabled by a non-service connected accident or illness
  • Qualified disabled individuals
  • Qualified totally disabled veterans and their widow(er)s
  • Veterans whose home was substantially contributed to by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and their widow(er)s
  • Individuals who have a developmental disability