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Homeowners seeking mortgage payment relief pass 3.8 million

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About 7.3% of U.S. mortgages entered forbearance plans in April, providing temporary relief to more than 3.8 million borrowers who have lost income during the coronavirus pandemic.

The loans have $841 billion in unpaid principal balance, up almost 12% from a week earlier, according to figures released Friday by Black Knight Inc., a mortgage information service based in Jacksonville, Fla.

Requests for payment relief are expected to soar as businesses remain shuttered to control the spread of the deadly virus and job losses mount. More than 30 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits in the past six weeks.

Under legislation passed in late March, borrowers are allowed to defer payments without penalty for as long as six months initially, with a possible six-month extension. They’re obligated to eventually repay the money.

The forbearance rate was highest — 10.5% — among loans from the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration, which are available to people with lower credit scores and smaller down payments.

The share was 6.1% for mortgages backed by government-sponsored Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Servicers responsible for Fannie and Freddie loans are required to advance payments to bond investors for four months, which would cost $8 billion at the current forbearance rate for the group, Black Knight said.

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