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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • NYDFS fines mortgage loan servicer for alleged violations of Abandoned Property Relief Act

    State Issues

    On January 16, NYDFS announced a $100,000 settlement with a New York state-registered mortgage loan servicer for allegedly failing to register and maintain two properties as required by the state’s Abandoned Property Relief Act. Under the Act, NYDFS can hold banks and mortgage servicers accountable should they fail to fulfill certain maintenance obligations at vacant and abandoned residential properties (“zombie” properties) securing mortgage loans in their portfolios. NYDFS rejected claims that the servicer was unable to maintain the “zombie” properties due to not receiving authorization from the mortgagee and that the properties were not subject to the requirements of the Act because backdated lien releases extinguished its maintenance obligation. Under the terms of the consent order, the servicer has also agreed to provide confirmation within 30 days to NYDFS that all properties subject to New York’s Vacant and Abandoned Property Law have been sufficiently registered with NYDFS’ registry of vacant and abandoned properties, are maintained properly, and that all quarterly filings for each property have been submitted.

    State Issues NYDFS Enforcement Mortgage Servicing

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  • District Court dismisses non-borrower action against mortgage servicer

    Courts

    On January 11, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi granted a mortgage servicer’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit with prejudice brought by a homeowner’s widow alleging violations of, among other claims, TILA, RESPA, and FDCPA, for failing to include a credit-life-insurance provision in the loan note. According to the opinion, the plaintiff sued the mortgage servicer and mortgage originator after her husband passed and the servicer initiated foreclosure proceedings. The plaintiff argued that her husband, who was the sole borrower, and the mortgage originator had an oral agreement to include a credit-life-provision in the mortgage loan note but the originator failed to include it. The mortgage servicer moved to dismiss the action arguing, among other things, that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring the action. Upon review, the court agreed with the mortgage servicer, determining that the plaintiff lacks standing under TILA, RESPA, and the FDCPA because she was neither an “obligor” nor “borrower” on the loan even though she  was identified as a “borrower” on the Deed of Trust. Moreover, the court rejected the plaintiff’s alternative claim that she is a third-party beneficiary with standing to sue under the laws, finding that no valid contract existed as to the credit-life-insurance policy and therefore, the plaintiff could not claim to be a beneficiary of a non-existent contract. The court also dismissed the plaintiff’s other state law and fraud claims, finding she failed to provide sufficient facts to make the claims plausible.

    Courts Foreclosure FDCPA TILA RESPA Mortgage Servicing

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  • Agencies issue origination and servicing guidance addressing government shutdown

    Federal Issues

    On January 11, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae issued guidance regarding credit reporting during the government shutdown (see Bulletin 2019-2 and Lender Letter 2019-01). The guidance clarifies that servicers have flexibility when reporting the status of a mortgage loan to credit reporting agencies for a borrower affected by the shutdown, and are permitting, but not requiring, servicers to suppress credit reporting in these instances entirely.

    On January 8, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-19-1, which encourages holders of VA-guaranteed loans to extend forbearance to borrowers in distress as a result of the government shut down. It also encourages servicers to waive late charges on loans where borrowers suffered income loss due the shutdown or who may have been affected due to the ripple effect of the shutdown and suspend credit reporting on the affected accounts. The VA also issued Circular 26-19-2, which clarifies that loans for borrowers directly impacted by the government shutdown are still eligible for guarantee by the VA, so long as the lender has obtained all the required documentation and the loan is current. The VA emphasizes that the furlough period should not be considered a break in employment for underwriting purposes provided the borrower returned to work in the same status and provides their furlough letter. Additionally, the VA reminds originators that, even though the IRS Form 4506-T is mentioned in the VA Lender’s Handbook as a condition of the Automated Underwriting Cases feedback certificate, that condition is an investor or lender overlay and the form is not actually required by VA guidelines. Lastly, if the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is unavailable for routine certifications or correspondence regarding flood insurance, the VA reminds lenders that non-federal flood insurance policies are acceptable.

    Federal Issues Freddie Mac Mortgages Mortgage Servicing Fannie Mae Department of Veterans Affairs

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  • CFPB issues five-year lookback for 2013 ATR/QM and Mortgage Servicing Rule

    Federal Issues

    On January 10, the CFPB released the assessment reports required by Section 1022(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act for two of its 2013 mortgage rules: the TILA Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgage (ATR/QM) Rule and the RESPA Mortgage Servicing Rule. The assessment reports were conducted using the Bureau’s own research and external sources. The reports do not include a benefit-cost analysis of either rule, nor do they propose amendments to the rules or contain any other policy recommendations. However, the Bureau expects the reports to be used to “inform the Bureau’s future policy decisions.”

    The ATR/QM Rule became effective in January 2014 and generally requires that lenders make a reasonable and good faith determination, based on documented information, that the borrower has the reasonable ability to repay the mortgage loan. Highlights of the report’s findings include:

    • While it is difficult to distinguish the effects of the ATR/QM Rule and the marketwide tightening of underwriting standards following the housing crisis, the rule may have restricted the reintroduction of certain types of loans that were associated with high delinquency or foreclosure rates, such as loans based on limited or no documentation of income or assets, loans with low initial monthly payments that reset after a period of time, and loans with high debt-to-income ratios.
    • The ATR/QM Rule was not generally associated with an improvement in loan performance, as measured by the percentage of loans becoming 60 or more days delinquent within two years of origination.
    • The ATR/QM Rule did not impact access to credit for self-employed borrowers who were eligible for a GSE loan. For other self-employed borrowers, the Bureau acknowledged lenders may find it difficult to comply with the Appendix Q documentation and calculation requirements but found that approval rates for this population decreased only slightly.
    • While the costs of originating a mortgage loan have increased substantially over time, the ATR/QM Rule does not appear to have materially increased the lenders’ costs or the prices the lenders charged to consumers, at an aggregate market level. However, based on data from nine lenders, the Bureau estimated the foregone profits from not originating certain types of non-QM loans at $20-$26 million per year.
    • Contrary to the Bureau’s expectations when it issued the ATR/QM Rule, the GSEs have maintained a persistently high share of the market, and the market for non-QM loans remains relatively small.

    The Mortgage Servicing Rule became effective in January 2014 and, among other things, imposes procedural requirements on servicers with respect to loss mitigation and foreclosure for delinquent borrowers. Highlights of the report’s findings include:

    • Loans that became delinquent were less likely to proceed to a foreclosure during the months after the Mortgage Servicing Rule’s effective date compared to months prior to the effective date and were more likely to return to current status. For borrowers who became delinquent the year the rule took effect, the Bureau estimated that, absent the rule, at least 26,000 additional borrowers would have experienced foreclosure within three years, and at least 127,000 fewer borrowers would have recovered from delinquency within three years.
    • The cost of servicing mortgage loans has increased substantially; the main increase in costs occurred before the Mortgage Servicing Rule took effect and is not attributable to the rule. However, some servicers reported significant ongoing costs of complying with the rule, which can be attributable with the need for “robust control functions” and higher personnel costs to support increased communication with delinquent borrowers.
    • The time from borrower initiation of a loss mitigation application to short-sale offer increased in 2015 compared to 2012.
    • A larger share of borrowers who completed loss mitigation applications in 2015 were able to avoid foreclosure than borrowers who completed loss mitigation applications in 2012.
    • The rate of written error assertions per account fell by about one-half after the Mortgage Servicing Rule’s effective date compared to the prior three years.
    • There was a moderate decrease in the share of borrowers receiving force-placed insurance and the Rule’s effective date, which can be attributable to the Rule but also to the changes in the insurance market.

    Federal Issues Dodd-Frank Ability To Repay Qualified Mortgage Mortgage Servicing TILA RESPA CFPB

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  • Ohio mortgage servicers now required to register

    State Issues

    On December 19, 2018, the Ohio Governor signed Substitute House Bill 489 (HB 489), which amends the Ohio Residential Mortgage Lending Act (RMLA) to, among other things, require a person acting as mortgage servicer to obtain a Residential Mortgage Lending Act Certificate of Registration in the state, unless exempt from the RMLA. The amendments define a “mortgage servicer” as an entity that holds mortgage servicing rights, records mortgage payments on its books, or carries out other responsibilities under the mortgage agreement.

    HB 489 also revises the laws governing financial institution regulations and consumer protections. Specifically, it includes amendments which (i) provide some regulatory relief to state banks and credit unions concerning the frequency of examinations that meet certain conditions; (ii) enable requests for data analytics to be conducted on publicly available information regarding regulated state banks, credit unions, and consumer finance companies; and (iii) require that a specified notice be given to a debtor for certain collections related to defaulted debt secured by junior liens on residential properties.

    The amendments take effect 91 days after the bill is filed with the Ohio Secretary of State.

    State Issues State Legislation Licensing Mortgages Mortgage Servicing

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  • Freddie Mac releases temporary guidance for government shutdown

    Federal Issues

    On January 3, Freddie Mac released guidance relating to loan origination and loan servicing during the government shutdown. According to Bulletin 2019-1, loans made to borrowers directly impacted by the government shutdown are still eligible for sale to Freddie Mac, even if the borrower is not receiving pay when the loan is delivered, so long as (i) all income and employment documentation requirements are met; (ii) the seller has no knowledge that the borrower will not return to work after the shutdown ends; and (iii) all other requirements of the “Seller’s Purchase Documents” are met. Freddie Mac also emphasizes that the IRS Form 4506-T and flood insurance requirements will remain unchanged during the shutdown. Additionally, Freddie Mac notes that loan servicers may offer forbearance to borrowers directly impacted by the shutdown.

    Federal Issues Freddie Mac Mortgages Loan Origination Mortgage Servicing

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  • District court grants judgment in favor of loan servicer on remand

    Courts

    On December 10, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled on a motion for summary judgment concerning whether the Minnesota Mortgage Originator and Servicer Licensing Act’s (MOSLA) provision prohibiting “a mortgage servicer from violating ‘federal law regulating residential mortgage loans’” provides a cause of action under state law when a loan servicer violates RESPA but where the consumer ultimately has no federal cause of action because the consumer “sustained no actual damages and thus has no actionable claim under RESPA.”

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit reviewed the district court’s earlier decision to grant summary judgement in favor of a consumer who claimed the mortgage loan servicer failed to adequately respond to his qualified written requests concerning erroneous delinquency allegations. The 8th Circuit overturned that ruling, opining that while the loan servicer failed to (i) conduct an adequate investigation following the plaintiff’s request as to why there was a delinquency for his account, and (ii) failed to provide a complete loan payment history when requested, its failure did not cause actual damages.

    Now, revisiting the issue on remand, the district court stated that any MOSLA violation or injury is predicated on the RESPA violation or injury. Reasoning that since there were “no actual damages under RESPA, then there are no actual damages under MOSLA,” the court concluded that the consumer did not have a viable cause of action under MOSLA and dismissed the action with prejudice.

    Courts Eighth Circuit Appellate State Issues Mortgage Servicing RESPA

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  • VA encourages loan holders to extend relief to borrowers impacted by Hurricane Michael

    Federal Issues

    On October 15, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-18-23, requesting relief for homeowners impacted by Hurricane Michael. Among other things, the Circular encourages loan holders to (i) extend forbearance to borrowers in distress because of the storms; (ii) establish a 90-day moratorium from the date of the disaster on initiating new foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waive late charges on affected loans; and (iv) suspend reporting affected loans to credit bureaus. The Circular is effective until October 1, 2019. Mortgage servicers and veteran borrowers are also encouraged to review the VA’s Guidance on Natural Disasters.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief here.

    Federal Issues Department of Veterans Affairs Disaster Relief Mortgages Mortgage Servicing

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  • Court denies motion to certify classes in TCPA action against national mortgage servicer

    Courts

    On September 27, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied certification of two proposed classes in a TCPA action against a national mortgage servicer, concluding that plaintiff had failed to meet his burden of demonstrating, under FRCP 23(b)(3), that common issues of fact or law predominated over any questions affecting only individual members. According to the opinion, plaintiff alleged the mortgage servicer contacted consumer phones, without express consent, using an automatic telephone dialing system (autodialer) in violation of the TCPA. One of the four named plaintiffs sought to represent two classes of consumers who were contacted by the servicer two or more times between October 2010 and November 2014: (i) those who received calls or texts and told the servicer to cease contact; and (ii) those who received calls and told the servicer it had called the wrong number.

    The court found the issue of consent was decisive in this action, relying on authority holding that individual issues of consent predominate where a defendant “provides specific evidence that a significant number of putative class members consented to contact . . . .” The opinion notes that mortgage servicer’s policies contained a process for flagging accounts that withdrew consent to be contacted and if an account was flagged, the autodialer would not initiate calls to that number. The mortgage servicer argued that many consumers gave permission, retracted it, and gave the permission to be contacted again. The court found the servicer had “put forth specific evidence establishing that a significant percentage of the putative class consented to receiving calls.” The court reviewed expert reports by both parties and ultimately concluded that the method for determining class members suggested by the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s expert did not “adequately identify a common way to address the individual variations of consent and revocation that occurred in this case.” The court determined that it would need to conduct an individualized consent inquiry for accountholders in each putative class.

    Courts TCPA Autodialer Class Action Mortgage Servicing Mortgages

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  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issue servicing updates

    Federal Issues

    On September 26, Fannie Mae issued SVC-2018-07, which includes changes to the foreclosure and third party sale program. In order to encourage more third-party foreclosure sales, Fannie Mae is now requiring the use of Fannie Mae vendors for foreclosure sale marketing services in certain jurisdictions and encouraging the use of Fannie Mae vendors for public foreclosure auctions in certain jurisdictions. Servicers must implement the requirements for all sales scheduled on or after January 1, 2019. Additionally, effective October 28, Fannie Mae will now allow servicers to accept payment changes with future effective dates.

    Freddie Mac released Guide Bulletin 2018-16, which announces new and revised requirements to facilitate a secondary market for mortgages in support of affordable housing preservation and rural housing, including (i) allowing the sale of Community Land Trust Mortgages to Freddie Mac (effective November 5); (ii) updating requirements for mortgages secured by properties subject to resale restrictions (effective November 5); and (iii) revising the Home Possible mortgage requirements to permit sweat equity as a source of funds to cover the entire amount of cash to close for the down payment and/or closing costs (effective September 26).

    Federal Issues Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Servicing Guide Mortgages Mortgage Servicing Foreclosure

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