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Mortgage help on the way for Superstorm Sandy victims

(Moneywatch) There is some relief on the horizon for homeowners affected by Superstorm Sandy: Most mortgage companies are offering breaks on mortgage payments.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) -- which make up 90 percent of all mortgage backers -- along with the largest mortgage servicers like Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and Citibank are all offering some form of mortgage relief to victims of the superstorm, waiving late fees and modifying or extending payments on their mortgage. Many lenders have also suspended foreclosure sales.

There are a few caveats. Customers are not automatically enrolled in these programs. They must initiate contact with their lenders and in some cases, must be able to show damages, a loss of income or major expenses.

Some benefits only apply to people in declared Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster areas, which so far are limited to the entire state of New Jersey and parts of New York and Connecticut.

Here's a list of relief offers from major lenders and mortgage servicers:

-- Citibank is suspending foreclosures sales in declared disaster areas and is offering payment extension options, including 90 days forbearance of payments or longer.

-- Freddie Mac is asking companies that service its loans to offer forbearance of up to 90 days for those living in FEMA disaster areas. After that, they may have to provide the company with insurance documents, photos of damage and other proof.

-- For homeowners with loans serviced by Fannie Mae, payments will be also be suspended or reduced for up to 90 days if they are struggling to pay bills on time because of Sandy, or if their property has lost value as a result of the storm. This relief also applies to those living in disaster areas.

-- Chase mortgage customers affected by Sandy can obtain a 90 day moratorium on making mortgage payments. Chase's offer extends to homeowners in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and DC.

-- The FHA is also granting foreclosure relief and forbearance to borrowers whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm. The FHA is also implementing a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and offering disaster mortgage insurance, which allows the victims of a major disaster who have lost their homes and are in the process of rebuilding or buying another home to obtain 100 percent financing.

-- Bank of America customers can get modified or extended payments on mortgage loans by calling the company.

-- Wells Fargo customers affected by Hurricane Sandy in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut with existing home mortgages can call to inquire about payment options available to eligible customers and for guidance on handling property insurance loss claims.

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