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On May 17, NYDFS announced an industry letter to establish its expectations for all institutions engaged in reverse mortgage lending in the State on cooperative apartment units (coop-reverse mortgages) once newly enacted Section 6-O*2 of the New York Banking Law takes effect May 30. The letter noted there is a comprehensive regulatory framework that addresses the marketing, origination, and servicing of reverse mortgages in New York and stated that most of the existing requirements apply equally to coop-reverse mortgages. This includes Title 3 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations Part 79 (3 NYCRR 79), which establishes various requirements relating to the marketing, origination, servicing, and termination of reverse mortgage loans in New York, and Title 3 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations Part 38 (3 NYCRR 38), which addresses issues involving, among other things, commitments and advertising for mortgage loans generally. Even so, the letter noted that NYDFS is considering amending its existing regulations to specifically address coop-reverse mortgages, or issuing a separate regulation governing this as a new product. Finally, the letter explained that “institutions that seek to originate, or service coop-reverse mortgages are directed to comply with the provisions of 3 NYCRR 79, and 3 NYCRR 38 in originating or servicing such mortgages” (subject to described clarifications, modifications, and exclusions). However, NYDFS stated that “in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of Section 6-O*2 and provisions of either 3 NYCRR 79 or 3 NYCRR 38, the provisions of Section 6-O*2 will govern; and in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of 3 NYCRR 79 and 3 NYCRR 38, provisions of 3 NYCRR 79 will govern.”
On May 23, Ginnie Mae announced enhancements to its Digital Collateral Program and released updated guidance for the securitization of eNotes. According to the announcement, the revised Digital Collateral Guide (eGuide) applies to all existing eIssuers and provides eligibility and technological requirements for interested applicants. The announcement noted that Ginnie Mae’s digital program has received continued interest since Ginnie Mae securitized its first eNote in January 2021. The current participants in the Ginnie Mae program are existing issuers, which is a requirement under the program. After a successful pilot phase of its new Digital Collateral Program, Ginnie Mae said that it will reopen the program to new applicants on June 21. Additionally, enhancements to the program include the ability to perform eModifications to eNotes, streamlined procedures for Release of Secured Party requests, and the acceptance of eNotes using a Power of Attorney. The eGuide updates are effective June 1.
Recently, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee granted in part and denied in part a defendant mortgage servicer’s motion for summary judgment concerning allegations that the defendant improperly foreclosed on plaintiff’s property. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant wrongfully accused her of failing to remedy her default and therefore violated RESPA and the FDCPA, among other things. Ultimately, the court denied defendant’s summary judgment request as to plaintiff’s RESPA claim because the defendant failed to exercise due diligence. But the court granted defendant’s request for summary judgment regarding plaintiff’s FDCPA claim because plaintiff presented no evidence that the defendant acted deceptively.
The plaintiff’s original loan—serviced by a previous servicer—was modified in 2016. But payments again were not made, so the previous servicer notified the plaintiff in December 2018 that it had accelerated the loan’s maturity date and referred the loan to foreclosure. The plaintiff, however, again applied for another modification in early 2019. After telling plaintiff her application was complete, the previous servicer then told the plaintiff, who claimed she inherited the property, that it needed additional documents to prove plaintiff’s successor-in-interest status. Ultimately, the previous servicer did not confirm the modification because the plaintiff did not confirm her successor-in-interest status.
The plaintiff again applied for a loan modification in March 2019, after the previous servicer transferred servicing rights to the defendant, and this modification was denied. She allegedly spoke with one of defendant’s representatives about the denial and indicated that she wished to reapply for a modification. However, the representative advised that she would have to reinstate the mortgage first before any loan modification. The defendant then sent a default letter to plaintiff’s property, which advised that the loan was still in default and needed payment.
The plaintiff submitted at least one additional request for mortgage assistance after the March 2019 modification application. The defendant acknowledged receipt of the request and detailed the documents it needed to process the request. The defendant then followed up in June 2019, stating again that it could not confirm that she was the successor-in-interest on the loan without documentation. A month later the defendant advised the plaintiff again that documents were still missing that were necessary to process her loan assistance request. The loan remained in default thereafter and the defendant foreclosed in August 2019.
In adopting the magistrate judge’s recommendation that the defendants’ motion for summary judgment be denied as to the RESPA claim, the district court noted that the defendant possibly should have sought documents, specifically the successor-in-interest documentation from the previous servicer, after the plaintiff submitted an incomplete loan modification application. The court stated that “there is a question of material fact whether [defendant] exercised reasonable diligence in failing to request the successor-in-interest documentation from [the previous servicer].” The court added that “there is a requirement of reasonable diligence, and there is no evidence showing that [defendant] met this standard. Failing to address the regulatory standard creates a question that cannot be resolved on the available information. Thus, there is at least one question of material fact here.”
Regarding plaintiff’s FDCPA claim, the court noted that “there is no evidence of deception in the foreclosure of loan payment process” and that “[p]laintiff has failed to provide any evidence that [defendant] acted dishonestly in requesting additional documentation to complete the loan modification.” The court therefore granted defendant’s summary judgment motion as to the FDCPA claim.
On May 18, the FDIC published a final rule that amends the deposit insurance regulations for trust accounts and mortgage servicing accounts. According to the FDIC, the final rule is “intended to make the deposit insurance rules easier to understand for depositors and bankers, facilitate more timely insurance determinations for trust accounts in the event of a bank failure, and enhance consistency of insurance coverage for mortgage servicing account deposits.”
The final rule, among other things: (i) establishes updates to the Banker Resources Guide Deposit Insurance Page with the Small Entity Compliance Guide (Community Bank Information) to promote understanding of the regulations; (ii) amends the deposit insurance regulations by merging the revocable and irrevocable trusts categories; (iii) “amends the regulation to expand the current per-borrower coverage of up to $250,000 to include any funds paid into the account to satisfy the principal and interest obligation of the mortgagors to the lender”; and (iv) establishes that certain “depositors within excess of $1.25 million in trusts deposits at a particular IDI may want to make changes given the new coverage limits” effective April 1, 2024.
On May 16, the CFPB released a report examining data collected across 16 large mortgage servicers from May through December 2021 on the servicers’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Bureau, there is significant variation in how servicers collected information on borrowers’ language preference, stating that “the substantial lack of information about borrowers’ language preference and varying data quality made it challenging to make any comparison between servicers.” However, the report also found that “the number of non-[limited English proficiency] borrowers who were delinquent without a loss mitigation option after forbearance declined over time, with the greatest decrease between October and November 2021, while the number of unknown and limited English proficiency (LEP) borrowers did not reflect the same decrease.” The report noted that servicer response to the Bureau’s requests for borrower demographics, including “a breakdown of the total loans they service by race, and race information for forbearances, delinquencies, and forbearance exits” was limited, precluding comparisons. The report encouraged "servicers to ensure that they are preventing discrimination in the provision of loss mitigation assistance.” Other key findings from the report included: (i) by the end of 2021, more than 330,000 borrowers’ loans remained delinquent – with no loss mitigation solution in place; (ii) the average hold times of more than ten minutes and call abandonment rates exceed 30 percent for certain servicers; (iii) the percentage of borrowers in delinquency and who had a non-English language preference increased during the reviewed period, but the percentage decreased for borrowers in delinquency and who identified English as their preferred language; (iv) more than half of the borrowers in the data received are categorized as race “unknown”; and (v) most borrowers exiting Covid forbearance exited with a loan modification (27 percent), while 15.2 percent exited in a state of delinquency.
9th Circuit: Incomplete loan modification application bars plaintiff's CA Homeowner Bill of Rights claims
On May 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal of a plaintiff’s allegations that a lender violated RESPA and the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), breached its contract, and breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court also dismissed the plaintiff’s request for promissory estoppel. In affirming the district court, the appellate court determined that the plaintiff’s HBOR claims failed, specifically because the plaintiff insufficiently showed that she incurred actual damages because of a RESPA violation. The appellate court also agreed that the plaintiff’s HBOR claims failed because she did not submit a complete application. Under HBOR, mortgage servicers are prohibited from reporting a notice of default if a lender’s “complete application for a first lien loan modification” is pending. The appellate court concluded that the plaintiff failed to sufficiently show that she had submitted a complete loan modification application, and did not demonstrate that she took follow-up action in response to a letter stating her loan modification application was incomplete, meaning her claim failed.
With respect to the plaintiff’s remaining claims, the 9th Circuit held, among other things, that the lender’s “alleged promise to consider plaintiff’s loan modification application upon dismissal of her lawsuit was neither sufficiently definite to create a contract nor sufficiently ‘clear and unambiguous to support a promissory estoppel.’” Moreover, the plaintiff’s claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing also failed because she could not prove breach of contract. Specifically, she did not state a claim for breach of the deed of trust because, as the plaintiff herself noted, “she failed to perform under the deed of trust when she did not make loan payments, and performance under the contract is a necessary element of a breach of contract claim.”
The dissenting judge disagreed with the majority in two key respects. First, the judge argued the majority wrongfully rejected the plaintiff’s HBOR claim because the complaint contended that the lender “would send out such boilerplate letters so that it did not have to comply with the requirement that it cease foreclosure activities once an application is complete,” and that “a lender’s bad faith conduct does not render a borrower’s application incomplete.” Regarding the plaintiff’s good faith and fair dealing claim, the judge argued that the plaintiff plausibly alleged that she submitted a complete application to the lender. According to the complaint, the plaintiff submitted the necessary documents and was allegedly informed by the lender’s lawyer that “her application was ‘in review, which meant that plaintiff’s application was complete.’”
On May 11, the FDIC, OCC, Federal Reserve Board, NCUA, and the Farm Credit Administration jointly issued revised, reorganized, and expanded interagency questions and answers (Q&As) regarding federal flood insurance laws. The revised Q&As supersede versions published in 2009 and 2011, and consolidate Q&As proposed by the agencies in 2020 and 2021 (covered by InfoBytes here). Reflecting significant changes to flood insurance requirements made by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, as well as regulations issued by the agencies to implement these laws, the revised Q&As consist of 144 Q&As (including 24 private flood insurance Q&As) covering a range of topics, including the escrow of flood insurance premiums, the detached structure exemption to the mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement, force placement procedures, and the acceptance of flood insurance policies issued by private insurers. The agencies also made non-substantive revisions to certain Q&As to provide more direct responses to questions asked, additional clarity, or make technical corrections. In response to concerns raised by several commenters, the agencies confirmed that they are providing the interagency Q&As “as guidance only,” and clarified that “all the Q&As apply to all policies, whether [National Flood Insurance Program] or a flood insurance policy issued by a private insurance company, unless otherwise noted in the Q&A.” Additionally, the agencies noted “that they are working individually and on an interagency basis to address financial risks associated with climate change consistent with the [a]gencies’ regulatory and supervisory authorities,” and therefore “decline to make changes to any of the Q&As in response to climate risk change.
On May 2, the Georgia governor signed SB 470, which amends state provisions related to mortgage lender and broker licensing. Among other things, the act: (i) defines a “covered employee” as “any employee of a mortgage lender or mortgage broker who is involved in residential mortgage loan related activities for property located in Georgia,” including but not limited to, “a mortgage loan originator, processor, or underwriter, or other employee who has access to residential mortgage loan origination, processing, or underwriting information”; (ii) adds “covered employee” to the list of persons for whom the Department of Banking and Finance may not issue a license or must revoke a license due to a felony conviction; and (iii) authorizes the Department to obtain conviction data with respect to a “covered employee.” The act is effective immediately.
On May 9, the FDIC issued FIL-19-2022 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of New Mexico affected by wildfires and straight-line winds that began on April 5. In the guidance, the FDIC writes that, in supervising institutions affected by the wildfires, it will consider the unusual circumstances those institutions face. The guidance suggests that institutions work with impacted borrowers to, among other things, (i) extend repayment terms; (ii) restructure existing loans; or (iii) ease terms for new loans to those affected by the severe weather, provided the measures are done “in a manner consistent with sound banking practices.” Additionally, the FDIC notes that institutions may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery. The FDIC will also consider relief from certain reporting and publishing requirements.
Separately, on May 6, HUD announced disaster assistance available to certain counties impacted by the New Mexico wildfires and straight-line winds, providing foreclosure relief and other assistance to affected homeowners. Specifically, HUD is providing an automatic 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages for covered properties and is making FHA insurance available to those victims whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Additionally, HUD’s Section 203(k) loan program will allow individuals who have lost homes to finance the purchase of a house, or refinance an existing house and the costs of repair, through a single mortgage. The program also allows homeowners with damaged property to finance the repair of their existing single-family homes. Furthermore, HUD is allowing administrative flexibilities to community planning and development grantees, as well as to public housing agencies and Tribes.
On May 6, the Secretaries of HUD, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture, and Treasury announced that servicers of federally-backed mortgages should pause pending foreclosure proceedings while assistance is available under the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). President Biden’s American Rescue Plan established HAF to provide approximately $10 billion in financial support for families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the announcement, pausing pending proceedings is considered “a vital step towards keeping families in their homes as they receive assistance through the HAF program and is consistent with Congress’s intent in putting in place the HAF program to protect vulnerable homeowners.” The Secretaries encourage homeowners and servicers to continue collaborating on loss mitigation options so that homeowners eligible for assistance can choose “the best path to staying in their homes and fully utilize available resources.” They also “strongly encourage servicers to offer these loss mitigation options to borrowers who are struggling to make their mortgage payments, including those who are eligible for HAF funding.” The announcement further noted that, among other things, Treasury is urging HAF program administrators to ensure that their programs expedite handling of applications from homeowners with pending foreclosure proceedings, and to develop expedited procedures for handling homeowners with immediate threats to housing stability, in addition to supporting homeowners who may benefit from the agencies’ loss mitigation options.
- Buckley Webcast: Fifth Circuit muddles CFPB’s plans to use in-house judges in enforcement proceedings
- Steven vonBerg to discuss “Regulatory plenary” at the Information Management Network’s Non-QM Forum
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss “Understanding the ESG impact on compliance” at the ABA’s Regulatory Compliance Conference