Southern California wildfires
Robyn Beck/Getty Images

Protecting your mortgage might be the last thing you think about when faced with an onslaught of wildfires, like the ones threatening thousands of properties in Southern California.

This year has been the costliest year in recorded history from wildfires nationwide, according to the Department of Agriculture. And that does not include the recent wildfires in California, which have threatened nearly 25,000 homes and destroyed more than 1,000 structures, according to reports.

When faced with a disaster like a wildfire, you may be eligible to get relief from your mortgage payments. Call your lender as soon as possible to ask if it’s offering financial relief.

Where to get help

Each bank or mortgage lender will offer different types of financial relief depending on your situation, but you won’t know until you call.

Many lenders are not requiring documentation, like a mortgage statement, since often times people have evacuated their homes where their paperwork is stored. In some cases, the home does not have to be damaged to get financial relief. You may be eligible for financial help because you can’t get back to work due to an evacuation, or because you need time to get connected with an insurance company, says Tom Kelly, spokesman at JPMorgan Chase.

“Just call,” Kelly says. “Tell us what your situation is and let’s do what’s right for you.”

Major lenders including Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo confirmed they are offering some form of financial relief for people impacted by the wildfires depending on each person’s situation.

“We have already reached out to more than 200,000 clients via e-mail,” says Terry Francisco, a spokesman at Bank of America. “Personalized financial assistance is available to clients in impacted locations.”

What type of relief is available?

The type of financial assistance will vary with each lender. But during past wildfires this year, some California banks waived late payment fees, deferred payments for up to 90 days, or delayed reporting a credit issue to the bureaus, says Beth Mills, a spokeswoman for the California Bankers Association.

Wells Fargo, for example, is offering to halt any late fees, collection calls or negative reporting to the credit bureaus for customers impacted by the wildfires, says Tom Goyda, a spokesman at Wells Fargo. The bank is also offering certain foreclosure protections.

“We are offering disaster assistance to customers impacted by the wildfires when they contact us,” he says.