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California wildfire victims are eligible for mortgage and tax payment relief

Key Points
  • More than 5,700 structures have been destroyed in the wildfires that began one week ago.
  • Individuals who live in designated areas may be eligible to postpone mortgage and tax payments.
Charlie and Kate Higgins embrace in front of their burned home in Santa Rosa, California on October 12, 2017.
Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

Victims of the California wildfires may see some relief when it comes to their mortgage and tax payments.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Internal Revenue Service separately issued guidance on Friday for those affected by the blazes that began a week ago. At least 40 people have been killed and more than 5,700 structures have been destroyed, according to recent reports.

Homeowners with single-family mortgages that are backed by Fannie Mae in those areas are eligible to stop making mortgage payments in three-month increments for up to 12 months, according to the mortgage financing provider. Those homeowners will not incur late fees or have delinquencies reported to credit reporting firms during that time, the company said.

Mortgage servicers may suspend or reduce mortgage payments for up to 90 days for affected homeowners. Additional forbearance of up to 12 months may be available. Mortgage servicers are also required to suspend foreclosures for homeowners who have been affected.

Freddie Mac issued a similar notice on Friday indicating that its disaster relief policies will be available to those who have been affected by the wildfires. That includes suspending foreclosures, waiving penalties or late fees for those with damaged homes and not reporting forbearances or delinquencies to credit reporting companies.

Borrowers should contact the company to which they send their payments immediately, according to Freddie Mac. To determine whether a mortgage is backed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, individuals can visit loan lookup tools provided by the agencies.

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At the same time, the IRS has also extended deadlines for certain tax payments for those who were directly hit by the blazes, as well as firefighters and relief workers who are helping the afflicted areas.

The IRS relief targets seven California counties: Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Sonoma and Yuba.

Individual taxpayers and businesses now have until Jan. 31 for certain payments and returns that were originally due starting from Oct. 8.

This includes filing of 2016 individual income tax returns that were extended to Oct. 16. "Because tax payments related to these 2016 returns were originally due on April 18, 2017, those payments are not eligible for this relief," the IRS noted.

It also includes the Jan. 16 deadline for quarterly estimated tax payments.

The agency will automatically help taxpayers with addresses on record in the affected areas. As a result, most individuals will not need to contact the agency.

Taxpayers seeking relief but who do not live in the designated areas, such as firefighters and aid workers, should call the IRS at 866-562-5227.