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Banks will waive mortgage payments for California homeowners, governor says

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Homeowners directly impacted by COVID-19 can delay payment up to three months

Several major banks have agreed to waive payments owed by customers “affected by COVID-19” for at least 90 days.

With millions of Californians temporarily out of work, Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday announced that four of the nation’s five largest financial institutions have agreed to give residents of the state a little extra time to repay missed home mortgage payments.

Newsom said that he had received “personal commitments” from the heads of Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and Citi that the banks would waive payments owed by customers “affected by COVID-19” for at least 90 days.

More than 200 state-chartered banks have agreed to do the same, Newsom said. Bank of America will give customers only 30 days to catch up on payments.

The governor acknowledged that the state lacks oversight over the nation’s largest banks, but said that he had “absolute certainty” they would follow through on their promise.

According to a release from the governor’s office, the guarantee also includes a two-month freeze on foreclosures and three months of late fee waivers. This relief won’t come automatically; homeowners will have to submit documentation proving they’ve been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Last week, President Donald Trump announced a temporary halt to foreclosures on mortgages backed by government-sponsored corporations Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, or by the Federal Housing Administration.

Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced Wednesday that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer mortgage forbearance to the owners of apartment buildings—as long as they agree not to evict tenants affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Statewide orders in place requiring residents to stay at home unless stocking up on food or medicine, exercising, or traveling to workplaces deemed “essential” have placed many Californians into a state of unexpected financial uncertainty. Newsom said that the state had received more than 1 million unemployment claims since March 13.

A federal aid package moving through congress would provide emergency financial assistance to most Americans, including additional funds for those out of work.

Still, Newsom said, “that doesn’t mean much when it comes to negotiating with, for example, your mortgage [company].”

In Los Angeles, an executive order issued by Mayor Eric Garcetti temporarily bars landlords from evicting tenants impacted by COVID-19 for nonpayment of rent.

Stronger renter protections are now being considered by the Los Angeles City Council, and at least one member of the council urged the governor to issue tenant protections statewide.

“Homeowners aren’t the only ones with bills to pay, and renters need answers before the end of the month,” said Councilmember David Ryu in a statement. “Protecting California’s economy means protecting California’s working families, and we must suspend rent payments and commercial mortgages on residential properties and small businesses.”