Mortgage Relief: Imploring Governor to Prevent Banks from Foreclosing

My City Council colleagues and I hear you — the people, small businesses, and nonprofits of Seattle are stressed and struggling financially, especially as the coronavirus pandemic and our public health response stretches on. The Governor, our Mayor, the Seattle City Council, and now our congressional delegation have taken major steps to protect safety and provide financial relief over the past several weeks.  For a list of the current relief packages for people, small businesses, and nonprofits, CLICK HERE (Governor), HERE (Mayor) and HERE (federal government). 

As rent payments are due again this month, I want to reiterate that both residential and small business evictions are banned under the emergency orders in place. In addition, the federal governments stimulus funding can be used to help with rent. One of the missing pieces, however, is the fact that mortgages are still due and there is currently no lasting protection against foreclosure, especially for commercial properties that provide apartment units or the space for small businesses and nonprofits.   On March 20, the Governor issued “guidance” to companies servicing mortgages, but that was merely a non-binding list of suggestions to the private sector.

That’s why Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and I drafted a letter (signed by the rest of the City Council on March 30) imploring Governor Inslee to use his authority to prevent banks from foreclosing.  To read the letter, please CLICK HERE.

Here’s a key excerpt from our letter to the Governor about foreclosures:

While we have heard about temporary efforts from some financial institutions to delay foreclosures…we remain concerned that these voluntary efforts are not enforceable, and they do not cover all residential mortgages or commercial properties, including apartment buildings and buildings renting to small businesses. We, the undersigned members of Seattle City Council, respectfully request that you use your authority under State law to order a moratorium on foreclosures and we stand ready to help in any way possible.”

So, as we take concrete actions with our emergency orders and ordinances to provide relief, we are also pushing other levels of government. In addition to this letter to the Governor to prevent foreclosures using his authority under State law, my Council colleagues proposed an aspirational Resolution (31940) this week asking for additional relief from rent and mortgages. The Resolution was rushed (introduced and passed on essentially the same day) and I raised serious questions about whether it would be legally sustainable or even practical. I felt that our policy to prevent evictions and our letter to the Governor are more effective.  Nevertheless, it was a non-binding Resolution that expressed the sentiment conveyed by hundreds of constituents writing to my office.  While I decided to vote Yes to support the aspirational sentiment, I believe the Resolution was mischaracterized and misinterpreted and, therefore, created false hopes. 

Rent and mortgages are still due.  So if you’re a tenant or landlord, please consider this guidance from the Mayor’s office:

On March 31, Governor Inslee announced guidance to assist homeowners struggling to pay their monthly mortgage. Clicking through the Governor’s announcement gets you to his website with this info:

  • If you do not have enough money to cover your mortgage payment, contact your lender immediately.
  • Homeowners in distress may call DFI’s toll-free number 1-877-RING-DFI (746-4334) to talk to a member of our team and to get assistance in how best to contact their mortgage servicer, and to learn more about their options.
  • Don’t wait until you’re behind on payments. Lenders may work with you to waive late fees, set up a repayment plan or offer loan forbearance.
  • If you would like to talk to a housing counselor, call the Washington Homeownership Hotline at 1.877.894.HOME.
  • Assistance for Washington Homeowners: Coronavirus mortgage assistance available to Washington homeowners.
  • List of Housing Counseling Agencies in Washington: Housing counselors may be able to assist you with your needs. Contact a housing counselor near you.

On April 1 (online) and April 5 (print edition), The Seattle Times published a helpful article “Paying Your Mortgage When Money is Tight” that also explains how lenders cannot foreclose during the pandemic if home mortgages are backed by FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac and how to find out if your home mortgage is covered:

For more information about the various relief packages (for utilities, small business assistance, etc., go to: or review the rest of my City Council blog. Thank you.

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