When unexpected events happen, homeowners might face difficulties in making regular mortgage payments. One tool at their disposal during unforeseen financial crises is mortgage forbearance. But what is the meaning of mortgage forbearance, how does it work, and who qualifies?

    There are various safety nets that ensure unexpected events don’t immediately result in the loss of a home. Mortgage forbearance is a temporary arrangement agreed upon by the borrower and their lender to reduce their temporary financial strain.

    Forbearance is crucial when many individuals face sudden economic hardships during global or national crises. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many homeowners sought mortgage forbearance due to reduced income and job losses.

    While forbearance offers relief, it’s essential to understand how it works. The specific terms can vary by lender, the nature of the hardship, and other circumstances. In addition, while forbearance can alleviate immediate financial stress, homeowners must have a clear plan for resuming regular mortgage payments and making up for missed ones.

    Keep reading to learn more about mortgage forbearance, what it means, and how it works to help you understand this safety net available if you’re going through financial difficulties.


    • Mortgage forbearance is a temporary arrangement between a borrower and their lender that allows the borrower to reduce or halt monthly mortgage payments for a specified period, often due to unforeseen financial hardships.
    • To initiate forbearance, borrowers must contact their lenders as soon as possible and provide the necessary documentation to prove the hardship. The terms of forbearance vary based on agreements between borrowers and lenders.
    • Not every borrower is automatically eligible for forbearance. Demonstrating financial hardship through evidence like pay stubs, medical bills, or proof of job loss is crucial.

    Mortgage Forbearance Definition

    What is forbearance? If you find yourself struggling to make regular mortgage payments, mortgage forbearance may be able to help. But what does forbearance mean? Mortgage forbearance is a temporary arrangement between the borrower and lender that allows the borrower to reduce or pause their monthly payments for a specified period.

    Forbearance is not loan forgiveness; the missed payments will still need to be paid back, but the immediate financial burden is reduced. Mortgage forbearance is a short-term relief plan for borrowers facing temporary financial hardships.

    The purpose of mortgage forbearance is to provide homeowners with a grace period during times of financial strain, such as unemployment, medical emergencies, or other unforeseen setbacks. During the forbearance period, lenders will not initiate foreclosure, giving borrowers some breathing room to regain their financial footing.

    Once the forbearance period ends, the borrower must work out a plan with the lender to handle the missed payments. This could involve lump-sum payments, payment plans, or potential loan modification. The specifics of repayment and forbearance terms can vary based on the agreement between the lender and the borrower.

    It’s important to note that while forbearance can provide relief during challenging times, it’s not the best option for everyone. The long-term implications and eventual need to repay the missed payments mean that borrowers should consider forbearance as one of several options available to them.

    Download the Griffin Gold app today!

    Take charge of your financial wellness and achieve your homeownership goals

    Use invitation code: GRIFGOLD to register.

    How Does a Mortgage Forbearance Plan Work?

    Mortgage forbearance is structured to offer borrowers temporary relief from their monthly mortgage payments. Here’s a breakdown of how the process works:

    • Request for forbearance: The journey begins with the borrower recognizing a financial hardship that will affect their ability to make regular monthly mortgage payments. They’ll then contact their mortgage lender or loan servicer to request forbearance. You should request forbearance as soon as financial challenges arise rather than waiting until you begin missing payments.
    • Documentation & review: The lender or servicer might ask for documentation that proves financial hardship. This could include recent pay stubs, medical bills, proof of job loss, and so forth. Once submitted, the lender reviews the request.
    • Agreement: If the lender approves the forbearance request, both parties finalize an agreement detailing the terms of the forbearance. This agreement specifies the length of the forbearance period, reduced payment amounts, and information about what happens once the grace period ends.
    • Reduced or paused payments: During the forbearance period, the borrower will either make reduced payments or no payments, depending on the terms of the agreement. Keep in mind that interest usually continues to accrue during this time, even if payments are completely paused.
    • End of forbearance period: Once the agreed-upon forbearance period ends, the borrower must address the reduced or missed payments. There are several ways to handle this, such as lump sum payments, payment plans, or loan modification.

    Throughout the forbearance process, borrowers should maintain open communication with their lenders. If their financial situation changes during the forbearance period, they should notify their lender immediately.

    Who Is Eligible for Mortgage Forbearance?

    Mortgage forbearance is designed for borrowers who are temporarily unable to meet their mortgage payment obligations due to unforeseen financial hardships. However, it’s not automatically granted upon request; there are specific criteria borrowers must meet, and the decision ultimately rests with the lender.

    Before anything else, you must be able to demonstrate that you’re undergoing a financial challenge, making it difficult to keep up with your regular mortgage payments. This could be due to a variety of reasons, such as job loss, medical emergencies, natural disasters, or any other unforeseen events that impact your financial stability.

    A distraught man and woman sit on the couch and review documents scattered across the coffee table.

    Lenders will often request income statements or other documentation that showcases your current earnings. This can include recent pay stubs, profit and loss statements, or any other official records that detail your monthly income.

    To get a clearer picture of your financial obligations, lenders might ask for an itemized list of your monthly expenses. This helps them assess your financial strain and determine if forbearance is the most appropriate relief option.

    In addition, if you’re receiving benefits, such as unemployment, Social Security, pensions, or any other form of assistance, lenders may request official documentation or statements to evaluate your overall financial situation.

    Many lenders may also require a written explanation detailing the cause of your financial distress. In certain cases, they might also request supporting documents, such as medical bills, layoff notices, or proof of reduced work hours. This written account provides context and helps lenders understand the nature and expected duration of your financial challenges.

    Lenders often appreciate when borrowers present a proactive approach. Outlining a plan or timeline detailing how you intend to overcome financial hardships and resume regular monthly payments can instill confidence and show them you’re committed to resolving the situation.

    Only after providing all these documents and information will a lender determine whether you qualify for mortgage forbearance.

    The Pros and Cons of Mortgage Forbearance

    Managing finances during times of crisis can be daunting, especially when you face the potential threat of foreclosure due to an inability to meet your monthly mortgage obligations. Mortgage forbearance may offer temporary relief, but like all financial strategies, it has its own advantages and drawbacks. Weighing these pros and cons can help borrowers decide whether this path is the right one for their unique circumstances.

    Pros of mortgage forbearance

    The pros of mortgage forbearance include the following:

    • Temporary relief from payments: The most apparent benefit of forbearance is the immediate relief it provides. Homeowners facing temporary financial challenges can use this breathing room to stabilize thief finances without the threat of foreclosure.
    • Avoids foreclosure: Foreclosure can have significant financial and credit implications. Entering a forbearance agreement can stave off this severe consequence, protecting your credit score and long-term financial health.
    • Flexible repayment options: Post-forbearance, many lenders offer flexibility in repayment. This might include a lump-sum payment, increased monthly payments, or adding missed payments to the end of the mortgage term.
    • Credit score protection: With the right agreement, some lenders might not report your reduced or paused payments to the credit bureaus, ensuring your credit score isn’t adversely affected by your financial hardship.

    Cons of mortgage forbearance

    The cons of mortgage forbearance include the following:

    • Interest continues to accrue: Even though payments are paused or reduced, interest on the principal balance continues to accumulate, which could increase the total amount owed over the life of the loan.
    • Potential for lump-sum repayment: Some forbearance agreements may require borrowers to repay the total missed payment amount in a lump-sum once the forbearance period ends, which can be a big financial burden.
    • Longer loan term: If missed payments are added to the end of a mortgage, it extends the duration of the loan. This means you’ll be in debt longer, potentially affecting other financial plans.
    • Potential negative impact on credit: Not all lenders offer protection against reporting to credit bureaus. If your lender reports your forbearance, it can negatively impact your credit score.
    • May affect future loan opportunities: Being in forbearance can sometimes affect your ability to qualify for future loans or refinancing, as lenders might perceive it as a financial risk.

    How to Apply for Mortgage Forbearance

    If you’re considering mortgage forbearance, understanding the application process is essential. Though the specific steps can vary by lender, here’s a basic overview of how to apply for mortgage forbearance:

    1. Evaluate your financial situation: Before reaching out to your lender, assess your financial situation. Understand the nature of your hardship, whether it’s temporary or more prolonged.
    2. Contact your mortgage servicer: Your mortgage servicer is the company to which you send your monthly payments. Communicating with them as soon as you foresee difficulties in making payments shows that you’re proactive.
    3. Prepare relevant documentation: Before formally applying for forbearance, gather all the necessary documentation to approve your financial hardship. This may include income statements or pay stubs, details of monthly expenses, benefits or assistance you’re receiving, and a written statement detailing the cause of your financial hardship.
    4. Formally apply: Your lender will guide you through their specific application process. Typically, this involves filling out a forbearance request form and submitting all the previously gathered documentation.
    5. Review the agreement: If your lender approves the request, they’ll provide a forbearance agreement. This document outlines the terms, such as duration and how missed payments will be addressed once the period ends. Thoroughly review this agreement and clarify any doubts.
    6. Plan for the post-forbearance period: It’s crucial to be prepared for when the forbearance period ends. Understand your repayment obligations, whether in lump-sum, through increased monthly payments, or other arrangements.

    Alternatives to Forbearance

    While mortgage forbearance offers a temporary reprieve to homeowners facing financial hardships, it’s not the only option available. Some alternatives might better align with certain situations or long-term objectives. Depending on your financial health, home equity, and long-term goals, one of these alternatives could be more suitable than forbearance.

    Refinance your mortgage

    Refinancing involves replacing your current mortgage with a new loan, usually at a lower interest rate. The main objective is to reduce monthly payments, making them more manageable, especially during financial strain.

    A person holds up and points to a calculator while another person signs a contract that’s lying on a table next to a model home.

    The most significant benefit of refinancing your mortgage is that if market conditions are favorable, you can secure a rate lower than your original loan, saving money over the long term. In addition, unlike forbearance, which is temporary, refinancing offers a more permanent solution.

    Depending on your home’s equity, you might be eligible for a cash-out refinance, allowing you to use some of your equity for other immediate needs.

    Of course, refinancing isn’t a perfect solution, and it won’t fit every situation. Refinancing isn’t free, so you might incur costs similar to your original mortgage. In addition, while you might secure lower monthly payments, it could also mean lengthening the duration of your loan, which might result in paying more interest over time.

    Negotiate a repayment plan

    If you’ve missed a few mortgage payments but feel confident about catching up, you can negotiate a repayment plan with your lender. This plan allows you to repay the missed amounts over a specified period.

    A repayment plan can help you avoid foreclosure. Lenders generally prefer repayment plans due to the time and costs associated with foreclosure. In addition, this option is well-suited to those facing temporary financial setbacks by providing a brief window to catch up on missed payments.

    Unlike refinancing or loan modification, the terms of your original mortgage remain unchanged when you negotiate a repayment plan, which means your interest rate and loan duration remain unchanged.

    Unfortunately, repayment plays last only a few months. If your financial issues aren’t resolved quickly, this might not be a viable solution for you. Keep in mind that you’ll be paying your regular mortgage amount plus a portion of the past-due amount, leading to higher monthly payments for the duration of the plan.

    Request a loan modification

    Loan modification involves a change in the terms of your mortgage without refinancing it. This could mean a reduced interest rate, an extended loan term, or even a principal forbearance.

    This option offers a permanent change and lasting solution to your financial hardships. Depending on your needs and negotiation, loan modifications can address various factors of the loan, including the rate, duration, or principal.

    Like repayment plans, lenders might prefer modifications over foreclosures since foreclosures are more costly and time-consuming.

    That said, even though it can save your home, loan modifications might negatively affect your credit score because the process might involve reporting the loan as being in partial payment, or the delay in payments that led to the modification may have already been reported.

    Additionally, not everyone qualifies for a loan modification. Lenders might require proof of financial hardship, and you may need to be in default or prove that default is imminent.

    Selling your house

    Sometimes, a homeowner’s financial hardship may not be short-lived, and they might contemplate selling their house to alleviate the ongoing mortgage responsibility. Selling a house with a mortgage is a common practice, and there are established processes to protect both the homeowner’s and lender’s interests.

    If you’re considering this route, you should understand how much equity you have in your home and whether the current market conditions are favorable for selling. Proceeds from the sale can then be used to pay off the existing mortgage, with any remaining funds being available to help you secure another living arrangement.

    That said, if the home’s market value has dropped below the outstanding mortgage balance, it could result in a short sale, where the lender agrees to accept less than the amount owed on the loan.

    Work With Your Lender to Review Your Options

    While forbearance might be a fitting short-term solution, it isn’t the only avenue available. Whether you’re contemplating refinancing, negotiating a repayment plan, or leaning towards loan modification, each option comes with its set of benefits and drawbacks.

    Proactive communication with your lender is paramount. Open dialogue allows for a clear understanding of the choices at your disposal and facilitates collaboration to find a solution that aligns with your unique situation.

    Griffin Funding is dedicated to assisting homeowners in their times of need. Our team can understand and address individual concerns to ensure that every homeowner’s journey is smooth and informed. Apply for a mortgage with Griffin Funding today.

    Interested in learning more?

    Get Started

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long does mortgage forbearance last for?

    Mortgage forbearance typically lasts for a short period, usually three to twelve months. However, the exact duration varies based on the agreement you have with your lender and the nature of your hardship. For instance, under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, borrowers with federally backed mortgages could request up to 180 days of forbearance due to pandemic-related hardships, with a possible extension.

    In general, borrowers with FHA and VA loans can request forbearance for up to six months, with the possibility of an extension for another six months. VA loan forbearance works similarly to other types of forbearance and provides support during difficult times so veterans can maintain their homeownership.

    Similarly, those with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans might be eligible for an initial forbearance period of up to six months, with the possibility of extending it for another six months before reaching the maximum of 12 months in total.

    The length of forbearance for loans not government-backed or sponsored, such as conventional and non-QM loans, depends on the agreement between the borrower and lender. Many lenders follow similar guidelines to government-backed loans.

    Does mortgage forbearance hurt your credit?

    In many cases, mortgage forbearance doesn't directly hurt your credit score when it's part of an agreement between the borrower and lender. Most lenders won't report missed or reduced payments as "late" to the credit bureaus during the forbearance period, but some might.

    Additionally, if you missed payments before entering the forbearance agreement, those late payments could still be reported to credit bureaus, negatively impacting your credit score. The forbearance doesn't erase past missed payments.

    Forbearance can also influence a lender's decision if you apply for new credit or loans, making it potentially more challenging to get a loan after forbearance. Some lenders view forbearance on your credit report as a sign of past financial distress, even if it didn't impact your credit score directly.

    To ensure your credit remains unaffected during forbearance, keep an open line of communication between you and your lender. Ensure that you both agree on the forbearance terms, especially concerning how they report your account status to credit bureaus during this period.

    How do I know if mortgage forbearance is a good idea?

    Mortgage forbearance can be a lifeline for homeowners facing temporary financial difficulties, but it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Determining if it's a good idea for your particular situation requires careful consideration.

    You should assess the nature of your financial distress. If your financial challenges are temporary, such as a short-term job loss, medical emergencies, or a natural disaster, forbearance can provide the necessary relief, allowing you time to recover and resume normal payments.

    However, if your financial setbacks are long-term or permanent, forbearance might only delay the inevitable challenges associated with keeping up with your mortgage. More permanent solutions like a loan modification or refinancing might be better options in these cases.

    It's also important to understand the terms and implications of forbearance. Remember, it's not the same as loan forgiveness. You'll still need to repay the missed amounts, and how you can will vary. Before agreeing to forbearance, ensure you fully understand how to address the paused payments once your forbearance period ends. If you believe the repayment terms will create more financial strain down the line, it may be worth exploring other avenues.
    Bill Lyons

    Bill Lyons is the Founder, CEO & President of Griffin Funding. Founded in 2013, Griffin Funding is a national boutique mortgage lender focusing on delivering 5-star service to its clients. Mr. Lyons has 22 years of experience in the mortgage business. Lyons is seen as an industry leader and expert in real estate finance. Lyons has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Wall Street Journal, HousingWire, and more. As a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association, Lyons is able to keep up with important changes in the industry to deliver the most value to Griffin's clients. Under Lyons' leadership, Griffin Funding has made the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list five times in its 10 years in business.