CFPB, DOJ remind on servicemember protections
On December 20, the CFPB and the DOJ issued two joint letters reminding mortgage servicers and landlords to ensure that military homeowners and tenants are safeguarded during the Covid-19 pandemic and benefit equally as the U.S. economically recovers. One letter was sent to landlords and other housing providers on protections for military tenants, reminding property owners of the critical housing protections for military tenants, some of whom may have had to make alterations to their housing arrangements in response to the pandemic. The other letter was sent to mortgage servicers regarding military borrowers who have exited or will be exiting Covid-19 mortgage forbearance programs. The letter comes in response to complaints from military families and veterans on possible mortgage servicing violations, which include, among other things, inaccurate credit reporting and misleading communications to borrowers. According to the second letter, the CFPB and the DOJ warned, “[s]uch actions, if true, may be in violation of the legal protections under the CARES Act or contrary to administrative guidance issued by federal housing agencies,” and that the Bureau “is currently reviewing these complaints to determine if further investigation is warranted.” The announcement also reminded landlord and servicers that “[s]ervicemembers have several legal protections under the SCRA that are designed to enable them to devote their entire energy to the national defense,” which include, among other things, “a prohibition on foreclosing on certain servicemembers’ mortgages without court orders, the ability for military families to terminate residential leases early, and without penalty, upon receipt of military orders, and a prohibition on evicting military families from their homes without court orders. In addition, under the CARES Act and Regulation X, servicemembers and veterans have the same protections available to all mortgage borrowers.” The announcement also noted that approximately 7.6 million homeowners entered forbearance during the Covid-19 pandemic and 1.25 million borrowers, many of whom are military borrowers, are still currently in forbearance programs that will expire at the end of the year.