Responsible, but struggling, homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure in South Carolina can apply for mortgage payment assistance through a program administered through the S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority. The program, the South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program (SC HELP) is making more than $300 million available in South Carolina to struggling homeowners.

SC HELP is designed to help homeowners who are falling behind on mortgage payments due to circumstances beyond their control. These may include unemployment, catastrophic illness, death of a spouse, and/or divorce. The South Carolina program receives its funding from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. “SC HELP could continue until 2017,” said Lisa A. Bussey, Legislative Outreach Manager of the state housing authority.

Bussey urges homeowners who are or may be falling behind in mortgage payments to apply to SC HELP as soon as they begin to experience trouble. “Our goal is to make certain no potential beneficiary goes un-served. If you think you may qualify, please apply.”

Homeowners can apply online at SC HELP officials emphasize that using the online application is the fastest and most efficient way to begin the process. Homeowners without internet access may call toll-free to 855-HELP-4-SC (855-435-7472) to begin the process.

Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis, but for those who qualify, assistance may include:

  • Monthly Payment Assistance – assisting homeowners with monthly payments for a defined period of time while they seek employment and a return to self-sustainability.
  • Direct Loan Assistance – for borrowers who have experienced a hardship but have regained the ability to pay. Funds can be used to pay arrearages in order to bring the loan current.
  • Property Disposition Assistance – in cases where the mortgage cannot be salvaged, funds may be provided to help transition families from homeownership to rental housing in cases where a short-sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure occurs.

Homeowners applying for Monthly Payment Assistance or Direct Loan Assistance must meet certain threshold requirements in order to apply for help:

  1. Borrower or co-borrower must be able to document that the delinquency was a result of a hardship event beyond his/her control (i.e. unemployment, death of a spouse, catastrophic medical expenses, etc.)
  2. Mortgage payments must have been made on time for 12 months preceding the hardship event with no more than two 30-day late occurrences
  3. The property securing the mortgage must be owner-occupied as a full-time residence
  4. Borrower must provide a financial hardship affidavit
  5. Mortgage can be no more than 120 days delinquent
  6. Loan servicer/investor must be willing to accept payments and provide required data and reporting

Assistance from SC HELP will be provided in the form of a non-recourse zero-percent interest, non-amortizing, forgivable loan secured by a subordinate lien on the subject property. The loan will be forgiven over a five-year period at a rate of 20% per year. If property is sold or refinanced prior to the loan termination date, funds will be recovered should sufficient equity be available from the transaction. The Property Disposition Assistance Program will provide a one time, lump sum grant to the recipient.