As Covid-19 spreads more Canadians signing up for mortgage deferral plans

When Canada’s big banks said they would allow homeowners to defer their mortgage payments for up to six months during the COVID-19 pandemic it seemed like a great idea, but a mortgage expert says few will qualify.

Samantha Brookes, the CEO of Mortgages of Canada, said it’s a great idea if needed, but anyone eligible for the program will have to use it as a last resort and will still be responsible for added interest, fees and deferral charges.

“If you lost your job and there is no way you could actually make that mortgage payment than they will look to give you an approval on that deferral, but if you have assets or you have any other savings anywhere else to make those mortgage payments than they are not going to give you that deferral,” she said.

Canada’s six largest banks are taking part in the program, but the Canadian Bankers Association saw fit to issue a news release to make sure Canadians know exactly what the program is offering.

“Customers should understand this is not mortgage forgiveness,” the release states.

"Mortgage deferral means that payments are skipped for a defined period of time, during which interest which would otherwise be part of the deferred payments is added to the outstanding balance of the mortgage.”

Brookes said that any interest you don't pay, you'll have to pay eventually along with other fees and charges.

“It accumulates and everything goes on the back end,” she said.

“If you don't do a refinance on renewal your payments will be higher. The only people who are really going to win obviously will be the banks.”

The Canadian Bankers Association says many Canadians facing financial hardship because of Covid-19 have decided to take advantage of a mortgage deferral option being offered by Canada’s six largest banks.

Mathieu Labrèche Director of Media Strategy with the group representing Canadian banks told CTV News Toronto “More than 213,000 requests for mortgage deferrals or skip a payment have already been completed or are in process since Canada’s six largest banks announced a mortgage deferral program last week.”

The association says that COVID-related mortgage deferral is available for an indefinite period and customers do not face a deadline for having to seek relief. “They can approach their bank as the need arises. Banks are working hard to help Canadians during this period of uncertainty” Labrèche said.

Before signing up for mortgage deferral, Brookes said people should keep in mind that not everyone is eligible and there is a chance it could affect your credit rating. A person also may need to reapply each month.

Brookes said her best advice if someone has no other option is to call their bank about mortgage deferral, they should also consider another financial strategy to get them through pandemic.

“If you need it take it. If you don't need it, than find other means to make it work,” Brookes said.

If you have a mortgage you may already have the option to skip a payment or maybe even two in a twelve month period. You can usually do that online through your bank's website without having to refinance or go through a deferral process.