NYDFS offers guidance on preventing sexual orientation discrimination in mortgage lending
On August 31, NYDFS issued new guidance to regulated mortgage lenders for developing and implementing programs to comply with the state’s fair lending law, which “prohibits discrimination in, among other things, the granting, withholding, extending, or renewing, or in the fixing of the rates, terms, or conditions of any form of credit on the basis of sexual orientation.” According to an analysis conducted by NYDFS of mortgage loan applications and mortgage loan terms (between 2016 and 2018) from four non-depository lenders and one bank, “in all but two of the fifteen data sets reviewed, same-sex pairs of applicants were denied mortgage loans at higher rates than opposite-sex pairs of applicants.” Additionally, the analysis found that “in six of the data sets, same-sex pairs received between 9 and 17 basis points higher average annual percentage rates than opposite-sex pairs.” NYDFS emphasized that a “same-sex pair” does not necessarily involve LGBTQI individuals, but could also be a mortgage loan application from a father and son or two business partners of the same sex, among other pairings. As such, NYDFS acknowledged that it was “unable to determine with certainty whether discrimination based on sexual orientation occurred as to any particular same-sex pair within the data set.”
However, because NYDFS concluded that its findings raised enough concerns over the potential for discrimination against LGBTQI mortgage applicants, NYDFS advised mortgage lenders to take the following actions, among others, to mitigate discrimination: (i) vest responsibility in senior management to develop a fair lending plan and ensure mortgage lending practices comply; (ii) monitor the implementation of the fair lending plan and “continually address application and underwriting processes as well as pricing policies”; (iii) implement a training program and semi-annually provide updates on fair lending issues; (iv) “[e]nsure automatic and timely review by a higher-level supervisor of all rejected or withdrawn applications for loans from same-sex pairs who indicated that they would live together in the mortgaged property; (v) extend (in writing) a fair lending plan’s principles to a mortgage lender’s refinancing and collection practices; and (vi) periodically review and update fair lending compliance programs and fair lending plans to ensure they remain current. Mortgage lenders are also advised to utilize rate sheets and exception logs to document applications from same-sex pairs, document approved loans for such applicants that received less favorable terms, and conduct statistical and regression analysis of loan data.