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Make Ends Meet Checklist: How to get relief on bills

Posted at 10:26 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 10:31:22-04

FORT MYERS, Fla — If you're out of work and spend hours every day fighting with the state's unemployment website, the last thing you want to do is take on a new battle with your mortgage or credit card company. Asking for lower payments or a deferral can be a stressful process, so here are some ways to make it easier.

“You can’t yell at these people, I think that’s my number one rule. You can’t get frustrated,” Adam Bruno says. Bruno is the founder and president of Evolution Retirement Services in Fort Myers.

This is the third in a week-long series of stories called the "Make Ends Meet Checklist." We're going to give you the tools to best face a difficult situation. We'll tell you how to confront and prioritize your bills, how to ask for deferrals, and where to turn to for help. We'll introduce to you people in your same situation and show you how these tools helped them.

In our last Checklist story, Bruno told us how to prioritize our bills, what we need to do to figure out which ones we have to pay first. Now, let's focus on what we can do to pay only part of the bill or get a deferral all together.

Car loans are probably the easiest. Most major lenders will give you a break and companies like Chrysler Capital do a good job of making that process available online.

“All of those deferments for payments, it’s all done electronically," Bruno says. "You don’t even need to speak with somebody. You do it electronically on the site and then it sends you a copy to your email.”

For your mortgage or rent, though, you will probably need to pick up a phone. Remember, even though there are laws in place to temporarily stop most pandemic-caused evictions and foreclosures, you still have to work out payment details with your lender or landlord. And companies like Wells Fargo say when you call, you will likely have to wait a long time.

"These guys on the other end of that phone, they’re probably way overworked and underpaid," Bruno says "They’re dealing with calls coming in all the time. And they haven’t had any respite either. So I think the best thing you can do is be nice. Be honest, tell them exactly what’s going on. And if you’re nice to them, more than likely they’re going to want to help you.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a list of things you can ask for, to get the most out of the conversation you have with your lender or bill collector.

Click here if you're just getting started on the process.

Click here to find out which type of mortgage relief you may be eligible for.

Here is information for renters, including what to do if your landlord is not cooperating with you.

Click here to find out how to negotiate with your lender or bill collector.