Legal Analysts

Showing posts with label coronavirus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coronavirus. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

LIEB Permitted to Close Real Estate Deals by NYS

On April 2, 2020 we received word from NYS Empire State Development that "[r]eal estate law practices are deemed essential if it is necessary to be in-person to do the work."

LIEB can close your deals in-person. 

Make no mistake, we are a leader in remote closings, but sometimes lenders and title underwriters won't permit such a closing and we have been struggling to find a solution. So, rather than guessing, we made request of the Empire State Development to tell us. This is something every business must do before acting because the penalties are outrageous for non-compliance

We just got our answer and we are already scheduling closings. 

Some people might say that this is a terrible move for a public health advocate. However, my favorite professor during my Master's program taught me to never ignore any of the dimensions of health while only focusing on physical health. Yes, the physical dimension is important. Yet, one can never ignore the spiritual, emotional, social and mental dimensions as well. To that end, there are people who need to close their real estate deal to be healthy. They may be living in limbo with no place to go, there can be financial stress of continued home ownership, there could be too many people occupying one space, or a plethora of other reasons that a closing is necessary.

Remember not to judge someone else's circumstances. 

We will be sure to keep social distance and avoid any gatherings to never forget the physical health needs of our team, our clients and ever other individual who is involved in our closing process.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Covered Employers Must Comply With the WARN Act Prior to Laying off Employees

Employers contemplating reductions in force as a result of the Coronavirus must consider the applicable Federal and State laws prior to effectuating any layoffs, including but not limited to the WARN Act, to avoid substantial penalties.

The New York WARN ("Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act") Act is not suspended during the Coronavirus. Rather, the notice must be distributed, as detailed below, as soon as possible under the circumstances (as opposed to the regular 90 day notice requirement). Failure to provide such notice may result in the employer being required to pay back wages and/or the imposition of civil penalties.

When does the WARN Act apply?:

The New York WARN Act (which is more stringent than the Federal law) covers employers with 50 or more employees under the following circumstances:
  • Plant or unit closing affecting 25 or more workers;
  • Mass layoff of 25 or more full-time workers if the workers comprise of at least 33% of all workers at the physical site;
  • Mass layoff of 250 or more full-time workers; and
  • Certain other reductions of employees' work hours.


The WARN Act requires ninety (90) day notice of a mass layoff or plant closing to:
  • Affected employees;
  • New York State Department of Labor;
  • Employee/Union Representatives; and
  • The Local Workforce Investment Board.
The notice must include the following:
  • Name/address where plant closing or mass layoff is to occur;
  • Explanation as to whether the employment loss will be permanent or temporary;
  • Expected date of scheduled layoff(s);
  • Affected positions and number of affected employees in each position;
  • Name(s) of applicable union/employee representatives; and
  • Contact information of company representative who can provide additional information.
Consult with your employment attorney to confirm the satisfaction of all of these requirements before implementing layoffs.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Podcast | Tax Strategies and Coronavirus

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Evictions Stopped Under Coronavirus Stimulus - CARES Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or “CARES” Act was enacted into law on March 27, 2020. In addition to the relief enumerated in two of our recent articles (Nuts & Bolts of Stimulus Package - House Passes 2 Trillion Dollar Stimulus Package and Forbearance and Foreclosure Moratorium in Coronavirus Stimulus), the CARES Act also provides relief to residential tenants.

Under the CARES Act, from March 27, 2020 to July 25, 2020, landlords of 1- to 4-family and multifamily (5 or more) properties with FHA, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac mortgage loans may NOT:
  • Initiate a legal action to recover possession based on nonpayment of rent or other fees or charges;
  • Charge fees, penalties or other charges related to the nonpayment of rent;
  • Require the tenant to vacate with less than 30-days’ notice; and
  • Issue the 30-day notice to vacate until after July 25, 2020.
In addition, landlords who obtain a forbearance on their multifamily mortgage due to a financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 outbreak are prohibited from doing the above before their forbearance period expires.

Forbearance and Foreclosure Freeze in Coronavirus Stimulus

On March 27, 2020, the historic stimulus package known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or “CARES” Act was enacted into law.

In addition to the relief enumerated in our recent blog (Nuts & Bolts of Stimulus Package - House Passes 2 Trillion Dollar Stimulus Package), the CARES Act also includes mortgage relief in the form of forbearance periods and foreclosure moratoriums for federally backed mortgages on 1-4 family homes and multifamily (5 or more) homes.

Which mortgages are covered?
  • Federally backed mortgage loans secured by a first or subordinate lien on residential real property (including individual units of condominiums and cooperatives) for 1- to 4-families and for on multifamily residential real property (5 or more dwelling units) are covered, these include loans:
  • insured by the Federal Housing Administration;
  • insured under section 255 of the National Housing Act;
  • guaranteed under section 184 or 184A of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992;
  • guaranteed or insured by the Department of Veterans Affairs;
  • guaranteed or insured by the Department of Agriculture;
  • made by the Department of Agriculture; or
  • purchased or securitized by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) or Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae).

What relief is available? 
For 1-4 family properties:
  • Forbearance period of 180 days, which may be extended for an additional 180 days, upon the borrower’s request;
  • No late fees, interest, or penalties during the forbearance period beyond those scheduled or calculated as if borrower is current on the mortgage; and
  • Foreclosure moratorium – servicers are prohibited from moving for a foreclosure judgment or order of sale, or execute a foreclosure-related eviction from March 18, 2020 to May 17, 2020;
For multifamily properties
  • Forbearance period of 30 days, which may be extended for up to 2 additional 30-day periods, upon the borrower’s request. Note that the forbearance is only applicable to multifamily mortgage loans that were current on payments as of February 1, 2020. Also, tenants may not be evicted nor issued a notice to vacate for nonpayment or late payment of rent during the forbearance period.
  • Foreclosure moratorium: servicers are prohibited from moving for a foreclosure judgment or order of sale, or execute a foreclosure-related eviction from March 18, 2020 to May 17, 2020. 

What is the process for requesting a forbearance?
  • For 1-4 family properties: Requests for a forbearance may be made by submitting a borrower’s attestation to a financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 emergency. No other documentation is required for the initial 180-day forbearance to be granted.
  • For multifamily properties: Requests for a forbearance may be submitted to the servicer orally or in writing, through an affirmation that the multifamily borrower is experiencing a financial hardship during the COVID-19 emergency.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Nuts & Bolts of Stimulus Package - House Passes 2 Trillion Dollar Stimulus Package

The House passed the Senate's massive stimulus package today, paving the way for the President to sign the bill into law.

The bill includes the following:
  • Tax free payments to individuals of up to $1,200; $2,400 for married couples and additional $500 for children under the age of 16. Amount of payments are dependent on adjusted gross income. No eligibility if:
    • Individuals earning $99,000 or more
    • Married couples earning $198,000 or more;
  • Employees will be entitled to an additional $600 of weekly unemployment benefits in addition to the amount they are entitled to from their State. Part-time employees and independent contractors, even if not covered under their State law, will be entitled to these federal payments, as well;
  • $377 billion in loans and grants for small businesses;
  • $500 billion in loans for struggling businesses;
  • $150 billion for hospitals treating coronavirus patients;
  • Defers student loan payments for six (6) months; waives interest;
  • Foreclosures and evictions are stayed where mortgages are backed by the federal government.

No More Construction - Essential Service Guidance Updated

On March 27, 2020 at 11AM, Empire State Development refined the definition of essential businesses or entities in NYS as to construction, as follows:
All non-essential construction must shut down except emergency construction, (e.g. a project necessary to protect health and safety of the occupants, or to continue a project if it would be unsafe to allow to remain undone until it is safe to shut the site). 
Essential construction may continue and includes roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or health care facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters. At every site, if essential or emergency non-essential construction, this includes maintaining social distance, including for purposes of elevators/meals/entry and exit. Sites that cannot maintain distance and safety best practices must close and enforcement will be provided by the state in coordination with the city/local governments. This will include fines of up to $10,000 per violation. 
For purposes of this section construction work does not include a single worker, who is the sole employee/worker on a job site.
Be warned.

Penalties for Keeping Your Real Estate Opened in Coronavirus Expanded

By Executive Order 202.11, Governor Cuomo enacted new penalties, in addition to what we discussed in our blog - What Happens When You Ignore the Essential Services Executive Order, if you keep your real estate open in violation of an Executive Order.

The new penalty order states as follows:
During the period when an Executive Order limiting operation of a type of facility or limiting the number of persons who may occupy any space is in effect, any operation of such a facility or occupancy of any such space by more than the number of persons allowed by said Executive Order shall be deemed to be a violation of law and in particular, but not by way of limitation, shall be deemed to be a violation of the Uniform Code or other local building code in effect in the jurisdiction in which the facility or space is located. In the event of any such violation, any state, county, or local police officer authorized to enforce laws within the jurisdiction in which the space or facility is located is authorized to remove persons from such space or facility. In addition, in the event of such violation, any state, county, or local code enforcement official or fire marshal authorized to enforce the Uniform Code or other local building code within the jurisdiction in which the facility or space is located is authorized to issue an appearance ticket, a Notice of Violation, an Order to Remedy such violation, which shall require immediate compliance, and/or a Do Not Occupy Order to any owner, operator, or occupant of any such facility or space. Nothing in this provision shall limit the authority of any governmental unit or agency to take such other and/or additional enforcement actions to the extent necessary to ensure compliance with such occupancy-related directives or facility operation-related directives.
 As such, here is your exposure:

  • Charge of "violation of law"
  • Charge of "violation of the Uniform Code or other local building code"
  • Removal by police
  • Receipt of an appearance ticket, Notice of Violation, and/or Order to Remedy
  • Receipt of a Do Not Occupy Order to the "owner, operator, or occupant of any such facility or space"
Oh, by the way, you are KILLING people. So, stop it and close when you are ordered to close.

The end.

Podcast | NY Court System is Archaic | Modernization Needed ASAP

Attention Governor Cuomo the court system needs your leadership. We need e-signature protocols, e-notarization rules, servers, virtual meetings, and so much more. It’s time to modernize the legal industry and revamp the economy for both the state and businesses alike. As a true leader, you can transform the Coronavirus shutdown from a negative into a blue ocean opportunity for New York State.

Listen to our podcast here 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Podcast | Creative Lease Workout Options

Latest Podcast - Sharing creative lease solutions for commercial landlords and tenants who have lost revenue from coronavirus.

Click here to listen to podcast

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Podcast | Foreclosure Avoidance Through Forbearance Negotiations

Businesses devastated by quarantine should proactively negotiate forbearances with their lenders to avoid foreclosure and monetary judgments.

Click here to listen to the Podcast

NYS 90-Day Mortgage Relief Plan – DFS Regulation Issued

On March 24, 2020, the details of NYS’ COVID-19 mortgage help came to light.

Specifically, the New York State Department of Financial Services promulgated 3 NYCRR 119 in response to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.9.

Here is a Q&A about the details

What is the COVID-19 Relief Program?
The COVID-19 Relief Program requires DFS regulated institutions to make applications for a 90-day forbearance of any payment due on a residential mortgage of New York Property to individuals residing in New York and who demonstrates financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How long is the Program effective?
The Program shall be in effect until June 19, 2020, but may be extended if necessary.

Are mortgage payments waived under the Program?
The Program does not expressly require institutions to waive mortgage payments.

When can a borrower apply for the Program?
On or before April 3, 2020, regulated institutions are required to e-mail, publish on their website, mass mail, or broadly communicate to customers how to apply for COVID-19 relief and provide their contact information.

Which institutions are covered under the Program?
DFS-regulated institutions are covered under the Program. They are New York regulated banking organizations covered by the New York Banking Law and all New York regulated mortgage servicers regulated by DFS. This means that the program does not cover National Association lenders (federally charted banks). The Program does not apply to mortgage loans made, insured, or securitized by the United States, Government Sponsored Enterprise, Federal Home Loan Bank, and lenders, issuers, servicers or trustees of such loans, as well as, servicers for the Government National Mortgage Associations.

Does the Program cover commercial loans?
The Program does not apply to any commercial mortgage or other loans not described in 3 NYCRR 119.

Aside from a 90-day forbearance, is there additional relief available under the Program?
From today until June 19, 2020, or until extended, lenders will provide the following relief to individuals who experience financial hardship from COVID-19:
  • Waive fees for use of automated teller machines (ATMs);
  • Waive overdraft fees; and
  • Waive credit card late payment fees.
Institutions are not limited to offering the above types of relief and are encouraged to take additional reasonable and prudent actions to COVID-19 affected individuals.

Who is qualified to receive COVID-19 relief?
Regulated institutions must develop their own clear, easy to understand, and reasonably tailored criteria for assessing qualified individuals. The qualifications and process for applying for relief should be published by institutions on or before April 3, 2020.

How are applications processed under the Program?
Regulated institutions are required to develop and implement procedures for expedited processing where they must process and respond to requests immediately and no later than 10 days of receipt of all information reasonably required to process the application. All determinations must be communicated to the applicant in writing and must explain the reasons if the application was denied and a statement that the applicant may file a complaint with DFS if he believes the application was wrongly denied.

Is the Program ready to launch?
More clarity concerning the Program is expected once regulated institutions have published their process for applying for relief. Individuals who are seeking mortgage assistance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged retain counsel as soon as possible to negotiate with their mortgage lenders or servicers. Don’t assume you qualify and get all terms in writing before you stop making mortgage payments.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Title Examination, GAP Insurance, and Recorded Deeds - Closing Title in a Quarantined World

As of March 24, 2020, both the Nassau County and Suffolk County Clerks have suspended in-person access to their offices. As previously reported on our blog, the Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts has ordered that county clerks shall no longer accept any filings, electronic or otherwise. It's still an open question whether this precludes the electronic recording of documents, but there is no doubt that title insurance is a whole lot more complicated right now.

How will your title insurer examine title and issue a policy if they cannot pull non-electronic records? While some clerks have a more robust electronic system than others, can title insurers be confident that the records are up to date given limited staffing and restrictions on filing?

What about the period between closing of title and the recording of your deed? It has always been theoretically (and unfortunately in some instances, actually possible) for a grantor to encumber title to the property you just bought after your title insurer had already performed its search, cleared for closing, and locked in its policy. If there is an even further extended period between closing and recording due to coronavirus closures, it is more vital than ever to ensure that you are protected against these unseen encumbrances.

Traditionally this "GAP Period" requires a special endorsement that protects the purchaser against encumbrances that occur after closing but before the deed is recorded, but will title insurers be willing to insure such an unknown and potentially length time period?

If you are closing in the next few weeks, make sure your attorney has all these questions answered.

Coronavirus in Your Multi-Family / Commercial Building

If you learn that someone is infected with Coronavirus in a unit, do not notify other tenants or conduct cleaning.

Instead, contact your local (County / City) and follow their guidance. Do nothing else.

You are ill-equipped to create a protocol and may further injure your tenants by acting imprudently.

There are privacy concerns, cleanliness concerns, isolation concerns, testing concerns and the like.

Therefore, if you learn of a positive diagnosis in your property, contact your local health department and follow their guidance.

Federal Courts Remain Open Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

While New York State Courts are currently not permitting individuals or businesses to commence new matters (with extremely limited exceptions), federal courts (Eastern District of New York and Southern District of New York) remain open. Individuals or businesses can, thus, still file new cases in federal court.

Potential causes of action that can be filed in federal court include, but are not limited to:

  • Wage and Hour claims pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards act for unpaid wages, overtime, etc.;
  • Bankruptcy petitions; 
  • Discrimination/Retaliation claims under Title VII (race, age, sex, religion, disability etc.);
  • Interference with rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Monday, March 23, 2020

NYS Mortgage Relief Plan – Guidance from DFS

Following Governor Cuomo’s announcement on a 90-day mortgage relief plan for borrowers affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued Guidance to regulated financial institutions concerning its implementation. The Guidance urges all regulated financial institutions to do their part in curtailing the effects of COVID-19 on consumers and small businesses by:
  • Waiving overdraft fees;
  • Providing new loans on favorable terms;
  • Waiving late fees for credit card and other loan balances;
  • Waiving automated teller machine (ATM) fees;
  • Increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits;
  • Waiving early withdrawal penalties on time deposits;
  • Increasing credit card limits for creditworthy customers;
  • Offering payment accommodations, such as allowing loan customers to defer payments at no cost, extending the payment due dates or otherwise adjusting or altering terms of existing loans, which would avoid delinquencies, triggering events of default or similar adverse consequences, and negative credit agency reporting caused by COVID-19 related disruptions;
  • Ensuring that consumers and small businesses do not experience a disruption of service if financial institutions close their offices, including making available other avenues for consumers and businesses to continue to manage their accounts and to make inquiries;
  • Alerting customers to the heightened risk of scams and price gouging during the COVID-19 disruptions, and reminding customers to contact their financial institutions before entering into unsolicited financial assistance programs; and
  • Proactively reaching out to customers via app announcements, text, email or otherwise to explain the above-listed assistance being offered to customers.

Regulated financial institutions are also urged “to work with and provide accommodations to their borrowers during this unprecedented global emergency to the extent reasonable and prudent.” This includes holding off on taking adverse action for defaults. Regulated financial institutions include mortgage bankers, mortgage loan servicers, banks and trust companies, among others. For a full list of DFS-regulated financial institutions, click HERE.

While the efforts of DFS and New York State are definitely acknowledged and appreciated, Borrowers should be aware that the Guidance is simply that, guidance. The Guidance does not legally require financial institutions to take the above-listed actions and only encourages them to do so.

Stay tuned for more updates from New York State and DFS as to specific procedures on the NYS mortgage relief plan.

County Clerks and Court Clerks Forbidden From Accepting Filings

The Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts has issued an order forbidding the filing of all non-essential papers in county clerks and court clerks. This order is statewide and will have far-reaching consequences.

The Order, a copy of which can be found HERE, states:

Pursuant to the authority vested in me, in light of the emergency circumstances caused by the continuing COVID-19 outbreak in New York State and the nation, and consistent with the Governor of New York's recent executive order suspending statues of limitation in legal matters, I direct that, effective immediately and until further order, no papers shall be accepted for filing by a county clerk or a court in any matter of a type not included on the list of essential matters attached as Exh. A. This directive applies to both paper and electronic filings.

Follow the link above to find a list of essential matters, most of which focus on the protection of the life, safety, and well-being of people.

The consequences of this Order are profound. For example, the Suffolk County and Nassau County clerks were both operating on a limited basis, but were still operating. The State's electronic court filing system was still accepting filings which enabled parties to continue litigating so long as it didn't require judicial intervention. New York County's online recording system, ACRIS, was still accepting electronic filings. Based on the wording of this Order, all of that ends today.

Despite this Order, Lieb at Law will proceed with our litigation matters to the maximum extent possible - as long as it doesn't require judicial intervention, we will push forward.

Look for a blog from Steven Siliato later today detailing the effects this Order will have on real estate transactions. Title examination? Race notice recording? GAP title insurance?

Governor Cuomo Issues Statewide Moratorium on Commercial and Residential Evictions and Foreclosures

Governor Cuomo has consolidated the patchwork of local foreclosure and eviction laws bubbling up in the wake of the COVID-19 quarantines - and it's a big one.

There shall be no enforcement of either an an eviction of any tenant, residential or commercial, or a foreclosure of any residential or commercial property for a period of ninety days. 

Ninety days from the date of the Order puts us out to June 18, 2020.

One noteworthy aspect of this Order is its application to both residential and commercial properties. 

It is vital to note, however, that this does not mean you cannot be in default of your rent or mortgage for the ninety day period. It simply states that there shall be no enforcement of evictions or foreclosures. If you are delinquent on your rent or mortgage during the term of this order, your landlord or lender could commence an eviction or foreclosure proceeding after the order expires. 

The interplay of this Executive Order with Executive Order 202.9 (see our prior blog about that, here) creates an opportunity for borrowers to leverage a forbearance with their lender ensuring that they are not delinquent on their mortgage on June 18, 2020. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

NYS Mortgage Relief Plans Becomes Clearer, BUT Not Enough

On March 21, 2020, the Governor issued NYS Executive Order 202.9, which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
Subdivision two of Section 39 of the Banking Law is hereby modified to provide that it shall be deemed an unsafe and unsound business practice if, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, any bank which is subject to the jurisdiction of the Department shall not grant a forbearance to any person or business who has a financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic for a period of ninety days... The Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services shall ensure under reasonable and prudent circumstances that any licensed or regulated entities provide to any consumer in the State of New York an opportunity for a forbearance of payments for a mortgage for any person or entity facing a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Superintendent shall promulgate emergency regulations to require that the application for such forbearance be made widely available for consumers, and such application shall be granted in all reasonable and prudent circumstances solely for the period of such emergency. 
While a cursory reading shows that mortgage help is on the way, many uncertainties remain, including:

  • What does subject to the jurisdiction of the Department mean in the Order? Specifically, there are two charting systems for banks; federal and state. The Federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency controls federally chartered banks pursuant to the National Bank Act. Generally, you can tell that a bank is federally chartered because it has the initials N.A. after its name. As a result, NYS doesn't have jurisdiction over federally chartered banks so how does this work if you have a loan through a federal bank like many NYS residents do?
  • When is the Superintendent promulgating emergency regulations and how are consumers going to understand those regulations if attorneys at law were not labeled as essential services under the quarantine and therefore are becoming less available by the minute? Yes, some law firms are open and working remotely, but for how long with many clerks' offices closed and all court deadlines tolled (yesterday's Executive Order 202.8), including "any specific time limit for the commencement, filing, or service of any legal action, notice, motion, or other process or proceeding."
  • By adding the words business & entity, is it intended that this applies to both residential and commercial property?
  • Is there a limit on the amount of the mortgage for this to be applicable?
  • After the forbearance is over, what happens to the money deferred (i.e., back end balloon, recapitalized, ballooned immediately, something else)?
  • Will the Superintendent of DFS be answering these questions or someone else; plus, will the answers be part of a regulation or just advisory? 
Please don't misunderstand this post. We 100% support the quarantine and also support the forbearance. Instead, this blog is designed to prevent further hardship to the vulnerable who take a leap of faith on their mortgage without first researching facts.

Get facts before you act and the facts aren't out yet - so, CONTINUE PAYING YOUR MORTGAGE for now.

Friday, March 20, 2020

NYS, FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Mortgage Relief Plans Do Not Automatically Waive Mortgage Payments

On March 19, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced a 90-day Mortgage Relief Plan ("Plan") for New York State mortgage borrowers. New York State mortgage servicers are directed to provide 90-day mortgage relief to borrowers affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The Plan aims to provide the following relief:
  • Waiving mortgage payments based on financial hardship;
  • No negative reporting to credit bureaus;
  • Grace period for loan modification;
  • No late payment fees or online payment fees; and
  • Postponing or suspending foreclosures.
While the Plan does bring immediate relief to homeowners affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Plan does not simply waive mortgage payments due in the next 90 days. In his press conference, Governor Cuomo clarified, "We're not exempting people from the mortgage payments. We're just adjusting the mortgage to include those payments on the back end."

Currently, specific procedures on how to apply and/or how to qualify under the Plan is yet to be published, so stay tuned. Until then, borrowers should retain counsel to apply and negotiate with their mortgage lender or servicer for a forbearance plan to prevent incurring interest and fees for missed payments.

Mortgage relief plans are also in place for FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac mortgages. Similar to New York State's Plan, however, borrowers should be aware that the mortgage payments are not automatically waived nor placed on hold and they should retain counsel to apply and negotiate with their mortgage servicer immediately.