Fannie Mae's new deed-for-lease program

NEW YORK ( — Giving troubled borrowers yet another way to avoid foreclosure, Fannie Mae said on Thursday it would allow eligible homeowners to rent their own homes.

The Deed-for-Lease program allows homeowners to transfer the deed back to their lender and then sign a lease to remain in the home. The effort is aimed at borrowers with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae who do not qualify for a loan modification. Borrowers must live in the home as their primary residence and must be released from any subordinate liens.

The program aims to reduce the number of foreclosed properties being abandoned because they often fall into disrepair and hurt the surrounding homes’ values. Also, it keeps a roof over troubled borrowers’ heads and a steady stream of income coming from the property. Tenants of homeowners may also be eligible for leases.

“This new program helps eliminate some of the uncertainty of foreclosure, keeps families and tenants in their homes during a transitional period, and helps to stabilize neighborhoods and communities,” said Jay Ryan, vice president of Fannie Mae, a mortgage-guarantee firm under federal government control.

Homeowners must show they can afford market rent, but that payment cannot be more than 31% of the borrower’s pre-tax income. Leases may be up to 12 months, with the possibility of renewal or month-to-month extensions. If the property is sold, the new owner picks up the lease.

“It really buys them time,” said Paul Habibi, real estate professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

But in the long-run the program only delays the inevitable sale of the distressed properties.

While this initiative is not part of the Obama administration’s loan modification program, the White House is leaning heavily on Fannie Mae and its sister firm, Freddie Mac, to assist in stemming the foreclosure crisis.

Freddie Mac launched a program in January that allowed borrowers to stay in their homes on a month-to-month basis after they go through foreclosure.

Despite the government and financial industry initiatives, foreclosures hit an all-time high in the third quarter. During that time, 937,840 homes received a foreclosure letter — whether a default notice, auction notice or bank repossession, according to RealtyTrac.

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