When Will Lenders Allow a Mortgage Modification?

There are different qualifying criteria for the many loan modifications available to borrowers today. Some of the standard requirements include that you be an owner occupant of the property, that the property be a 1 to 4 unit property, and that your mortgage payment must exceed 31% of your gross monthly income before taxes among others. However, there is one requirement that applies across every loan modification program I have seen but which most people find very vague – the requirement that you have a “financial hardship” that can be documented. This can be most difficult to prove when a borrower needs a loan modification, but has not fallen behind on their payments.

The term “financial hardship” can certainly mean different things to different people. However, there are some basic signs that lenders look for when borrowers apply for a loan modification under one of the many programs being offered.

One of the most common, and most easily documented, financial hardships presented to lenders is a sudden involuntary reduction in the borrower’s income. This can occur due to a job loss, or even a cut in pay and working hours, or disability. Note the use of the term involuntary. Don’t expect the lender to be lenient if you have simply quit your job in order to try self employment. Even if you expect to make more money as an entrepreneur, such income is not considered stable qualifying income unless you have a 2 year history at that job. Lenders will, however, consider the loss of income from a spouse losing a job even if that spouse was not a borrower on the original mortgage.

A second common documentable financial hardship is an impending increase in your housing payment due to increased taxes or insurance costs, a pending scheduled interest rate increase, or balloon payment coming due on your loan. All of these are common problems for borrowers with loans which were originated between the years 2005-2009.

A third common financial hardship which will convince a lender you deserve a loan modification is a sudden unexpected increase in non-housing related expenses. The most common causes of increased expenses in this area are medical and legal bills. Many times even people with good health insurance end up with unexpected large medical bills they have to pay; and given that anyone can sue anyone else for almost any reason, legal bills can certainly appear in anyone’s life very quickly.

A fourth type of hardship that helps convince a lender that a loan modification is necessary even though a borrower is current on their payments is shown when a borrower has spent all of their savings and exhausted all available lines of unsecured credit in order to keep paying the house payment on time. If the borrower has found it necessary to draw several hundred dollars per month of savings or as cash advances on credit cards, and the savings are almost gone or the cards are nearly at their credit limits, then it follows that pretty soon the borrower will no longer be able to keep paying their loan payments on time.

There are other types of financial hardships which will convince a lender to modify a loan when the payments are current, but they all have a few things in common. Anything which has drastically lowered a borrower’s monthly income or drastically increased a borrower’s required monthly expenses will generally fit the bill as long as the change in circumstances is not the result of a present voluntary action. For example, although an interest rate increase was predictable and the borrower agreed to it when they signed the loan documents, the borrower had good reason to expect that refinancing a home would be relatively easy when the time for the payment increase arrived.

The key to getting your lender to agree to your loan modification request is to explain your financial hardship fully in writing and document it completely BEFORE you contact the lender to officially apply for your loan modification. In fact, before you officially contact your lender to request that modification, you should contact a HUD housing counselor to help you analyze and document your situation in the best way to convince the lender that you qualify for a loan modification. These counselors are available to you at no cost and you can locate one in your area through the official HUD website.