A private lender may offer loan deferment or forbearance. See section J of this sample private loan contract. Some lenders will charge for these services. Read your loan contract very carefully or ask your lender about these options. Some private lenders charge for forbearances. These types of charges should be explained in your loan agreement. In February 2012, Sallie Mae announced that it would change its forbearance fee policies for private student loans.
Private student lenders are not required to offer relief, but it definitely can’t hurt to ask! At a minimum, the lender must comply with any provisions in the contract spelling out relief options, including deferments and forbearances. You should request a copy of your loan agreement and other documents if you do not have them available.
Be wary of prolonged forbearances. These may help get you through a difficult time, but interest accrues while payments are postponed. A lender that grants repeated forbearances may seem to be helping you, but if you really cannot afford your payments, this may be prolonging inevitable default. Unlike some federal loans, interest will generally accrue during private loan deferment periods as well (including in-school deferments). If you can afford it, you should consider making interest-only payments during these postponement periods. Some private lenders may require you to do this. You should ask your lender about these programs and how they work, if possible, before taking out a private loan.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) keeps track of borrower experiences with private student lenders, servicers and collectors. You should consider filing a complaint with the CFPB if you feel like your lender is not treating you fairly. The CFPB reported in October 2013 that the most common type of private student loan complaint related to borrowers attempting to adjust the repayment terms of their loans in times of hardship.