What Bell Bank is Doing to Address COVID-19

CUSTOMER INFORMATION

Dear Bell Bank Mortgage clients, friends and business partners,

Throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we’ve taken every measure possible to protect the health of our customers, business partners, employees and community, while doing all we can to make sure we’re available to help you. Our mortgage team may be relying more heavily on technology to stay connected, yet you can be sure you will still receive the high level of service you expect from us.

Mortgage rates continue to hover around historically low levels. We never know when rates will change, so if you’ve been thinking about buying a home or refinancing your mortgage, your nearest Bell mortgage lender is ready to work with you to find the best options.

Tony Weick, President – Bell Bank Mortgage

An Update from Bell Bank

Mortgage rates remain low. Our process is largely paperless – and we are ready to help you with your purchase or refinance if the time is right for you.

Contact your nearest Bell Bank Mortgage lender to talk about what you’re looking for and what might be the best option for you.

Mobile Mortgage Access and Payments

Manage your mortgage anytime, anywhere when you use Bell Bank’s mobile app and online banking. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for online banking, then download the Bell Bank mobile app on your mobile device. You’ll be able to:

  • Access your mortgage (obtain information)
  • Make payments free of charge
  • Obtain payoff quotes
  • View mortgage statements

We strongly encourage our customers to use online and mobile banking services as much as possible. You should consider limiting physical payments and instead using one-time draft through online banking or bill pay. We are also strongly encouraging customers to obtain payoff quotes online, and we are asking that all proceeds be sent via wire.

Meeting Financial Challenges

If you have been financially impacted by COVID-19 through illness, loss of income or employment and need assistance, we’re here to help you figure out your options – including mortgage forbearance, a plan that allows qualified applicants to reduce or “pause” your payments.

There is financial help out there, through the 2020 CARES Act and other federal programs:

  • The CARES Act provides unemployment benefits for most types of workers (including independent contractors and gig workers), both supplementing and extending state employment benefits.
  • The CARES Act also provides the possibility of some mortgage relief if you've been directly and negatively impacted by COVID-19. You must contact your loan servicer (the company you pay your mortgage to each month) to formalize any agreement.
  • Until September 2020, government backed student loans are no longer accruing interest. The entire amount you pay each month will go toward your loan balance. If you establish a forbearance program with your servicer, you may be able to postpone some payments.
  • Some creditors also are offering special accommodations. Several car companies and private student loan companies, for example, have announced programs for affected borrowers.
  • Are you expecting a Federal tax refund? Remember, there's no need to wait until the extended July 15 deadline to file!

Most important: DO NOT just skip or reduce payments to your mortgage servicer or any creditor. Reach out to make formal arrangements. The CARES Act is intended to prevent credit reporting for certain missed, late or reduced payments during the crisis. It does not automatically change the systems required to make this work seamlessly between servicers and the credit agencies.

  • By working out and documenting plans with those you owe, you will be more likely to avoid negative impacts to your credit score.

COVID-19 (coronavirus) Mortgage Payment Forbearance Option

Understanding your available option for assistance is an important step in managing hardships.

If you have been financially impacted by COVID-19 through illness, loss of income or employment and need assistance, you may qualify for a mortgage forbearance – a plan that allows qualified applicants to reduce or “pause” their payments.

If you are considering mortgage forbearance, there are a few things we want to make sure you know:

  • If you qualify for a forbearance plan, you may be able to stop making your monthly mortgage payment for up to 3 -6 months.
  • During the forbearance period, you will not be assessed any late charges, and negative credit reporting on your loan will be suspended.
  • Forbearance does NOT erase the amount you owe on your mortgage.
  • If, after the initial forbearance period, your hardship has still not been resolved, we will continue to work with you. A loan counselor will reach out to you before the forbearance ends to discuss a permanent payment option and solution.
  • Continuing to make your regularly scheduled mortgage payments (or partial payments) is recommended until you find out if you qualify.

To help borrowers, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has announced that borrowers who are in forbearance, but current on their mortgage (in other words, continued to make mortgage payments or reinstated their mortgage), or who have recently ended their forbearance, are eligible to apply for a new home mortgage or refinancing through Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac.

  • Borrowers are eligible to refinance or buy a new home 3 months after their forbearance ends and they have made 3 consecutive payments under their repayment plan, or payment deferral option or loan modification.
  • That means homeowners who are in forbearance but continue to make their payments will not be penalized – and will still be able to access record low mortgage rates if it’s right for them.

During a “forbearance period,” you are not required to make your monthly mortgage payments. However, if you are able to make even partial payments, it will reduce the amount outstanding at the end of the forbearance period.

Your mortgage may be subject to additional investor or loan type requirements and guidelines. Your account must be brought current following your forbearance plan. If you are unable to pay the suspended installments in full or your previous monthly payment is no longer affordable, the below options may be available to you if you meet requirements:

  • Loan Modification: Permanently change the terms of your mortgage to bring it current.
  • Repayment: Breaks up the amount owed that accumulated during the forbearance period. Payments are distributed over an agreed-upon period of time.
  • Forbearance Extension: Extending the assistance plan up to 3-6 months.

If you would like to be placed on a forbearance plan, please complete and submit the form below. You must:

  • Affirm financial impact
  • Provide an amount (if any) you can afford monthly
  • Confirm your understanding of the repayment terms at the end of the forbearance period.

The form will be submitted to our loss mitigation team for review.When approved, you will receive a letter in the mail confirming the forbearance plan.

NOTE: Forbearance is for payments on first mortgages only. If you need help with home equity loan or line of credit (HELOC) payments, contact your personal banker or call our customer service team at 800.450.8949.

Protecting Your Home and Credit

You’ve worked hard to build your credit, purchase a home and secure your financial future. What can you do to minimize the impact of the coronavirus crisis? Here are some important tips to help you.

  • If there are no changes to your income: Great! Just keep making your loan payments on time to keep your credit shining.
  • If you have lost income: Use any available savings or emergency cash reserves to continue making on-time payments. If you don’t have available cash, here are some options to consider:
    • Draw down credit lines to establish a cash reserve. (Be sure to maintain a loan balance that provides sufficient equity in your home, especially if you plan to sell or refinance.)
    • Borrow against a current employer-sponsored retirement plan (but only after consulting with a financial advisor).
    • Avoid cashing in long-term investments such as stocks and mutual funds (most of which have declined significantly in value recently) unless there is no other choice.
  • Obtain payoff quotes
  • View mortgage statements

Payment Questions?

During this time, we recommend emailing any additional questions to reservicing@bell.bank whenever possible to allow our remote associates to respond in a timely manner. You can call our mortgage servicing customer service team at 866-387-0980 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT weekdays.