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Mortgage Relief for Gulf Coast Borrowers Affected By Oil Spill

Posted on June 25 By Justin McHood

So, you're a fisherman living and working along the Gulf Coast of Alabama (or Louisiana or Mississippi … take your pick). All is going well. You work hard, but you pay your bills and there's food on the table.

BOOM!

On April 20, 2010 (though you mightn't have recognized it on that day), your life changed, and pretty dramatically.

When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and then sank in the waters off of the Gulf of Mexico, spewing untold numbers of gallons of crude oil into the azure water, the lives of everyone living along the coast were changed. Globs of gelatinous goo put a stranglehold on sea life -- birds, turtles, and fish -- and made it impossible for you to do your job. Sticky tar balls and viscous goo washed ashore, thus keeping millions of dollars in tourism revenue away.

Life as you knew it was over.

You have a little bit of money saved, but that money won't last long. When your livelihood is taken from you, through no fault of your own, what on Earth are you to do? After all, you're not a big oil company, you're just one of the small people.

The good news -- at least sort-of-good news -- is that many lenders and lienholders, taking the lead from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have policies in place that will give people who have been legitimately affected by the oil spill up to 6 months in forebearance (meaning that their mortgage payments will be lessened or put on hold during that period) before taking any foreclosure action.

This isn't a lot, but it's certainly better than nothing.

It's extremely important to note that your lender won't know you've been affected by the spill unless you tell them. And tell them soon. If you just sit back and wait for something to happen, what will happen is that your bank will start foreclosure proceedings and, by that time, it'll be too late to say, "But, but … the oil spill!" Call your lender now.

What happens, though, when the forebearance period ends?

BP has said that the best-case scenario for stopping the oil leak is to dig a relief well. Odds are strong that digging such a well won't happen until at least sometime in August. And things aren't going to be all sunshine and flowers once the oil leak is stopped. Cleanup from this mess is going to take not just weeks or months, but years. Tourism and industries like commercial fishing are going to be crippled for more than 6 months. It's gut-wrenchingly sad and altogether unfair. But it's reality.

Talk to your lender. Likely, there are options available to you; ways for you to keep your home. But they're not going to fall out of the sky like fairy dust. The onus is on you to take the initiative.

Take it.

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