Fannie Mae told its mortgage lenders on Friday to help flood-hit homeowners who have trouble keeping up with their mortgage payments.

The company advised lenders to apply existing mortgage-relief procedures for homeowners whose properties have been damaged or whose livelihoods have been affected by the floods.

"We are reminding our lenders that these guidelines exist. We want them to use them," said Bonnie O'Dell, director of consumer information at the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae.

Most lenders continue to service loans they originated after the mortgages have been sold to the housing agencies.

Waiving Late-Payment Fees

Under Fannie's guidelines, lenders can help homeowners whose mortgages were sold to Fannie in several ways. They can waive late-payment fees and withhold reports of late payments to credit bureaus.

They can also negotiate longer-term agreements with borrowers who need to suspend their mortgage payments for up to 18 months.

Freddie Mac has similar disaster guidelines, but has not sent out a special advisory to lenders, said Albert LeQuang, that agency's national policy administrator.

The guidelines were formulated last May, in response to the string of disasters - the East Coast storms, Oakland's fire, the Los Angeles riots and California's earthquake, Mr. LeQuang said.

Freddie Mac has financed 800,000 mortgages in the five states thus far declared disaster areas - Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin - and in Kansas and Nebraska, which have also suffered serious flood damage. Fannie Mae has financed mortgages on 965,000 units in the five states declared disaster areas.

Both Fannie and Freddie said any aid to homeowners would not affect payments to holders of mortgage-backed securities.

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