Warning: Even in pandemic, creditors can report delinquent accounts
Despite what you may have heard before a $2 trillion federal stimulus package was signed to tackle the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, no part of the law blocks banks and lenders from telling the credit bureaus when you fall behind on payments or your account goes into collections.
Of course, your creditor has the option to be kind in the midst of this crisis and safeguard your credit score for the time being — but it's not a requirement.
A proposed four-month moratorium on missed payments or other credit issues reaching your credit report was pulled from the stimulus act before it was signed by President Donald Trump in late March. Financial lobbyists and others convinced lawmakers that the move would lead to an incomplete credit profile for consumers that could lead to complications later on.
Paul Oster, president of credit repair firm Better Qualified in Eatontown, said this could lead to even more financial trouble for folks already struggling to pay bills due to coronavirus-related income losses.
So it's up to individual consumers, he said, to reach out to their banks or lenders and find out what type of relief, if any, is being offered at this time. Beyond any forbearance or deferment options being offered, creditors may scratch late payment fees and reporting delinquent accounts to the major credit reporting agencies.
"Get it in writing, that they're going to continue to report you as 'paying as agreed' during whatever time they work out for you," Oster said. "And when you're talking about mortgages, sometimes it's not the bank that closed your loan. Most of the time those mortgages get sold to bigger servicing companies."
Simply put, you want to contact the entity you're paying each month.
According to Credit.com, credit bureaus have indicated that negative items on one's report during this time will be accompanied by a code that lets future creditors know they were made during a disaster.
But by that time, Oster said, the damage is already done to one's score. He fears what will happen once any lenders' relief options run out in the weeks or months ahead. Many residents don't have a cash buffer on hand to get through months, or even weeks, of financial struggles.
"People are going to be struggling to make their payments," he said. "The rainy day came and we didn't even have an umbrella, let alone money."