When disaster strikes, the last thing anyone is probably thinking about is a student loan payment. Of course, falling behind on payments for any reason can lead to serious problems, including negative credit reporting, late fees and penalties, and ultimately default. If you default on your loans, your lender (unfortunately) is probably not going to care why.
Given the still-unfolding destruction we’re seeing on the East Coast this week from Hurricane Sandy, I think now is a good time to remind people that forbearance might be an option for you if you can’t afford your student loan payment for the next month or two. Forbearance allows you to postpone your payments during periods of economic hardship. My general rule is to only use forbearance if you absolutely have to, because most borrowers will have a finite amount of forbearance time available, and interest continues to accrue during the forbearance period, which can increase your balance over time. That said, many borrowers in the northeast who have lost their homes or will have an extended period of reduced income may have no choice but to go into temporary forbearance.
For federal student loan borrowers, the U.S. Department of Education sometimes allows for “special” forbearance during national emergencies or natural disasters. It is unclear if such a “special” forbearance will be available to borrowers impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but at the very least, “economic hardship” forbearance should be available, provided you haven’t used up all of your available forbearance time already.
For private student loan borrowers directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy who are finding it difficult or impossible to make your student loan payment, your access to forbearance will be more limited (since private loans are generally less generous than federal loans when it comes to crisis options). Contact your private lender or servicer to find out what they can offer you.