NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Hurricane Sandy's deadly dance through some of the U.S's most highly populated areas was terrible for many, but what does it mean for homeowners in its path?
No doubt, they are already dealing with a litany of major problems, including power outages, lack of food and gasoline and the need for quality health care for young, old and otherwise afflicted friends and family members.
But when the smoke clears, the lights go back on and the kids and grandparents are safe, homeowners may have another Mother Nature-induced migraine: the survival of their homes.
There is good news. If your home mortgage is backed by Freddie Mac and your home was damaged or your income stream reduced or curbed because of Sandy, you do have some relief options, the nation's largest mortgage provider said this week.Freddie Mac, which says it has already financed 924,000 U.S. home purchases in the first half of 2012 and kept 81,000 U.S homes out of foreclosure, says it's taking active steps to help homeowners down and out from the hurricane. In a statement released Tuesday, Freddie Mac says its "full menu of relief policies for borrowers affected by disaster is being extended to homeowners whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy." The mortgage giant does have a few rules for homeowners. Their homes need to be in areas that the White House has already declared to be major disaster areas (which includes all of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York), or that are eligible for individual emergency disaster relief, which includes a wider number of Eastern and Northeastern U.S. states. If you're not sure where your state stands in terms of federal government disaster relief, visit the Federal Emergency Management website. Relief can come in many forms, says Freddie Mac, including temporary relief from having to make mortgage payments. "Freddie Mac has authorized the nation's mortgage servicers to provide a full range of mortgage relief options to affected borrowers with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac," says Tracy Mooney, senior vice president of single-family servicing and real estate owned at Freddie Mac. "Forbearance on mortgage payments for up to one year is one of several options our servicers have been instructed to offer borrowers on a case-by-case basis." The mortgage provider adds that mortgages on disaster-damaged homes are eligible for waiving of penalties or late fees, and that homeowners who take advantage of services such as forbearance or extension of payments won't have those activities provided to U.S. credit bureaus. Freddie Mac is not alone -- banks all over the country, including Bank of America (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM), are also providing mortgage payment extensions and elimination of late payment fees on mortgage payments. For homeowners, it's one less potential hassle in dealing with the storm of the century.