As life slowly returns to normal in hurricane-ravaged parts of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, housing experts and consumer advocates worry another crisis is on the horizon: Foreclosures.
Already, legal aid groups are working with people who are struggling to make mortgage payments on homes made uninhabitable by the storms, while paying rent somewhere else.
Although most mortgage lenders are offering grace periods for homeowners in disaster zones, the real trouble begins when those grace periods run out.
“I’m anticipating a wave of problems coming in February,” said Amir Befroui, a foreclosure specialist for Lone Star Legal Aid based in Houston. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re in the calm before the storm.”
Roughly 4.8 million mortgaged properties were in the paths of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, representing nearly $746 billion in unpaid principal balances, according to financial data firm Black Knight. In September, the number of loans that were more than 30 days past due rose 48% in Irma-affected areas and 67% in Harvey-affected areas, Black Knight found.