Keep Your Home California was established to help homeowners avoid foreclosures brought about by financial hardships. Simply put, a financial hardship is an event beyond the homeowners’ control, which negatively impacts their ability to pay their mortgage.
Keep Your Home California offers multiple programs to address the unique circumstances homeowners face, whether they are in the midst of their financial struggles or they have recovered from a hardship and need help to catch-up to regain their financial footing.
After almost six years of the free foreclosure prevention program, many homeowners are aware of the most common eligible hardships – a job loss, cut in pay, divorce or extraordinary medical expenses.
However, there are other challenges that could be considered a financial hardship and counselors review those requests. We often get questions about what constitutes an eligible financial hardship and quite a few homeowners call with challenges that do not qualify for the state-managed program.
Below is a list of the most common issues that do not qualify as a hardship for Keep Your Home California:
- College tuition and/or student loan payments: Higher education is an excellent investment, often paying off with more career opportunities and larger paychecks for those who earn a college degree. But even though a college degree is a huge investment (sometimes more than $100,000), it’s not an acceptable financial hardship for Keep Your Home California.
- Consumer debt: Car payments, including leases, and credit-card debt are not eligible hardships for Keep Your Home California. Cars are just about as synonymous with California as beaches, the Golden Gate Bridge and warm weather. Credit cards are a major drag on many pocketbooks, with the average American owing about $15,700, according to Nerdwallet. However, funds provided by Keep Your Home California may not be used to relieve consumer debt.
- Take this job … (also known as choosing to quit): The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program offers as much as $3,000 per month for up to 18 months – or a total of $54,000 – to homeowners who are out of work. Homeowners must be eligible for jobless benefits from the state Employment Development Department in order to qualify for the program. So, a homeowner’s job loss must have been involuntary.
- Second mortgage payment: Several homeowners have a second mortgage for a variety of reasons. Keep Your Home California can only provide assistance to homeowners on their first mortgage and their debt obligation on a second mortgage does not qualify as a financial hardship under program guidelines.
- Helping a family member with their finances: Many homeowners have big hearts – something we applaud – but if they choose to help a relative with some money woes, Keep Your Home California cannot classify that decision as a hardship for the mortgage assistance program. If your relative owns a home and their hardship meets the requirements for Keep Your Home California, they should apply for the program directly.
Some other common claims from homeowners that are not acceptable hardships – homeowners who live on a fixed income but are current on their mortgage and there are no other hardships and/or a pet emergency that became a Rottweiler-sized veterinarian bill.
Some of the items listed above are quite noble – and for some homeowners, may be higher priority expenses than their mortgage. However, that is a choice each homeowner must make and whether or not something qualifies as a hardship for Keep Your Home California can be boiled down to answering a simple question: Was it a choice the homeowner made? If the answer is “Yes,” then it is unlikely it will qualify as a hardship.
Now, some homeowners who are dealing with the above issues can get assistance from Keep Your Home California if they have another eligible hardship. It is important to understand that the presence of anything from the list above does not automatically exclude a person from receiving Keep Your Home California assistance.
For example, a homeowner could be making tuition payments for their child who is in college, and had their hours cut at work, leading to less take-home pay. That homeowner could qualify for Keep Your Home California assistance, but the hardship would be the reduction in income, not the expense of college tuition.
It can seem complicated, but counselors are available to assist homeowners and determine if their hardship might qualify them for assistance. If in doubt, call Keep Your Home California.
In addition to a financial hardship, homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements and their mortgage servicer – the company that collects the monthly payment – must participate in Keep Your Home California. More than 250 servicers, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, are enrolled in the program.
Homeowners interested in learning more or applying for the program should call the counseling center at 888-954-KEEP (5337) or find more information at www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org or www.ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org for Spanish speakers. The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Calls can be taken in virtually any language through a free translation service.