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On July 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that a borrower has three years to rescind a reverse mortgage loan if a lender fails to provide required TILA disclosures, but that in order for the cancellation of the loan to be complete the proceeds must be returned. The borrower attempted to rescind a reverse mortgage she took out on her home after discovering the lender allegedly did not provide required TILA disclosures at closing. She notified the lender seeking to rescind the mortgage, but later sued after the lender failed to honor her rescission rights as required by Section 1635(b) of TILA. At trial, a jury sided with the lender, finding that it did not fail to honor the borrower’s attempt to rescind the loan. However, the district court issued judgment as a matter of law for the borrower, holding that the lender violated TILA’s requirements following the borrower’s notice of rescission, and ruling that because of this failure, the borrower was not required to return $60,000 in loan proceeds. The lender appealed.
In vacating the district court’s order granting judgment as a matter of law, the appellate court held that the district court’s ruling violated TILA’s recission provisions, which are intended to return all parties to their status prior to the loan agreement. “To decide otherwise would bestow a remarkable windfall on a borrower and penalty on the lender divorced from the text of TILA and the entire purpose of rescission,” the Fourth Circuit wrote. Moreover, the appellate court concluded that while a lender’s obligations in response to a rescission notice are mandatory, nothing in Section 1635(b) “specifies that if the lender fails to take these actions, it loses its right to the monies it loaned to the borrower.”
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 January 28, the OCC published a notice and request for comment in the Federal Register seeking feedback on the renewal of its guidance for managing compliance and reputation risks for reverse mortgage products. The OCC, along with the FDIC, Federal Reserve Board, and the NCUA issued final guidance in 2010 focusing on the need for institutions “to provide adequate information to consumers about reverse mortgage products, to provide qualified independent counseling to consumers considering these products, and to avoid potential conflicts of interest.” The 2010 guidance also addressed related policies, procedures, internal controls, third party risk management, training, and program maintenance. The current notice seeks feedback on (i) whether the collection of the information is necessary and carries a practical utility; (ii) the accuracy of the estimates of the information collection burden; (iii) methods for enhancing the quality, utility and clarity of the information to be collected; (iv) ways to minimize the information collection burden for respondents; and (v) “[e]stimates of capital or start-up costs and costs of operation, maintenance, and purchase of services to provide information.” Comments are due March 29.
On July 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a class action challenging the lender placed insurance practices of a mortgage servicer, concluding that the filed-rate doctrine blocked the claims. According to the opinion, borrowers from North Carolina and New Jersey filed suit against their reverse mortgage lender and insurance company, alleging the lender and insurer colluded to overcharge consumers for lender placed insurance in violation of TILA, the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and various state laws. Specifically, the plaintiffs asserted that the insurance company charged an insurance rate, which was appropriately filed with state regulators, that was higher than the mortgage lender paid. The plaintiffs asserted the insurer then returned a portion of the profits back to the lender in order to induce continued insurance business. The district court dismissed the action, holding that the filed-rate doctrine blocked the claims.
On appeal, the 3rd Circuit agreed with the lower court. The appellate court emphasized that under the filed-rate doctrine, there is no distinction between “challenging a filed rate as unreasonable and…challenging an overcharge fraudulently included in a filed rate.” Because the plaintiffs sought damages in connection with the alleged overcharge of insurance premiums, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiffs were “functionally challeng[ing] the reasonableness of rates filed with state regulators.” Moreover, the appellate court noted that if the court were to award damages to the plaintiffs, the court would essentially be “giving these borrowers a better price for [lender placed insurance] than other  borrowers using a different lender,” but the same insurer. Thus, because the insurance rate was appropriately filed with the state regulators, the appellate court had no ability to decide whether the rate was “unreasonable or fraudulently inflated,” because the claims were precluded by the filed-rate doctrine.
On June 1, the CFPB updated its reverse mortgage servicing examination procedures to incorporate current HUD regulations that provide the structure for Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) products. The updated procedures also add new exam questions to include issues raised in complaints submitted by older consumers. According to the Bureau’s summary, additions to the procedures include: (i) information regarding situations where a “servicer advances funds to pay for property taxes in any situation where the borrower was not behind on these payments”; (ii) guidance concerning a servicer’s timeliness in providing accurate payoff statements; (iii) new language under “Causes of Default” summarizing the circumstances under which an eligible non-borrowing spouse on an HECM loan may stay in the home after the borrower dies, for loans originated on or after August 4, 2014; and (iv) new language in the background section, which “incorporates HUD’s August 2017 regulatory changes that affected the ways in which lenders and servicers calculate the initial and annual mortgage insurance premiums,” as well as additional language “to provide a fuller description of reverse mortgages.”
Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation issues guidance on reverse mortgages
On April 27, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, Division of Banks, issued guidance relating to compliance with the reverse mortgage counseling requirements under An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the Covid-19 Emergency, which was signed into law and effective on April 20, 2020. The act provides that the in-person counseling requirement under specific provisions of Massachusetts law can alternatively be met by synchronous, real-time video conference or by telephone. The division also provides guidance for counseling options for reverse mortgage counseling, HUD Certificate of HECM counseling, and other reverse mortgage programs.
On December 6, the New York governor signed AB 5626, which amends the state’s real property law related to lenders offering reverse mortgages in the state issued under the FHA’s home equity conversion mortgage for seniors program (HECM program). The Act provides that an authorized lender, or any other party or entity, is prohibited from engaging in any unfair or deceptive practices connected to the marketing or offering of reverse mortgage loans and must not: (i) use the words “public service announcement” in an advertisement or writing; (ii) use the words “government insured” or other similar language to represent that the reverse mortgage loans are “insured, supported and sponsored by any governmental entity” in any form of advertisement or writing; or (iii) “represent that any such loan is other than a commercial product.” Lenders will also be required to provide certain consumer protection information as specified by the NYDFS Superintendent, and must comply with stipulated requirements during the application process.
The Act also outlines various servicing- and foreclosure-related requirements and restrictions, and provides a private right of action to any person injured by reason of any violation of the Act, or any violation of the rules and regulations of HUD relating to the HECM program, to recover three times the person’s actual damages, plus reasonably attorney’s fees.
The Act takes effect March 5, 2020.
On December 3, HUD announced the maximum FHA loan limits for 2020, issuing Mortgagee Letter 19-19 for FHA-insured forward mortgage case numbers and Mortgagee Letter 19-20 for FHA-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) case numbers. The general one-unit property limits “floor” increased to $331,760, and the “ceiling” increased to $765,600, while the HECM claim amount also increased to $765,600, effective January 1, 2020.
On May 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the dismissal of a consumer’s putative class action against her reverse mortgage servicer for the alleged improper placement of flood insurance on her home. The consumer claimed violations of the FDCPA and multiple Florida laws, including the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), based on allegations that the mortgage servicer improperly executed lender-placed flood insurance on her property, even though the condo association had flood insurance covering the property. The lender-placed flood insurance resulted in $5,200 in premiums added to the balance of the loan, and an increase in financing costs on the mortgage. The district court dismissed the action, concluding the mortgage servicer was required by federal law to purchase the flood insurance and the monthly account statements were not collection letters under the FDCPA or state law.
On appeal, the 11th Circuit agreed with the district court that the monthly account statements of the reverse mortgage, which prominently stated “this is not a bill” in bold, uppercase letters, and did not request or demand payment, were not an attempt to collect a debt under the FDCPA. Additionally, the appellate court concluded that the consumer failed to allege the mortgage servicer was a debt collector within the meaning of the FDCPA because the complaint does not allege that the debt was in default. The appellate court also affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the state debt collection claims for similar reasons. However, the appellate court reversed the district court’s dismissal of the consumer’s FDUTPA claims, noting that the mortgage servicer failed to cite to a state or federal law requiring it to purchase flood insurance “when it has reason to know that the borrower is maintaining adequate coverage” in the form a condo association insurance.
On April 16, the Maryland Attorney General announced a settlement with a reverse mortgage servicer for allegedly charging homeowners illegal inspection fees. According to the Attorney General, from 2010 through 2016, the servicer passed the cost of inspecting properties in default on to homeowners, which Maryland law does not allow. In 2013, the Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation put the servicer on notice that it was charging prohibited inspection fees, but the servicer did not cease the activity until January 1, 2017. The servicer has since refunded or reversed nearly $44,000 in property inspection fees charged to consumers. The settlement agreement requires the servicer to (i) refund inspection fees that have not yet been refunded; (ii) provide notice to any sub-servicer that the inspection fees should be refunded or not collected; (iii) pay $5,000 to the state for costs associated with the investigation; and (iv) pay $50,000 in civil money penalties.
- Kathryn L. Ryan and Jedd R. Bellman to discuss “Risk and compliance management: Are you covered?” at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Melissa Klimkiewicz and Daniel A. Bellovin to discuss “Things to know about flood insurance” at a NAFCU webinar
- Hank Asbill to discuss “Ethical issues at sentencing” at the 31st Annual National Seminar on Federal Sentencing
- Max Bonici will moderate a panel on “Enforcement risk and other regulatory and compliance issues related to crypto and digital assets” at the American Bar Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting
- John R. Coleman to provide a “CFPB Update” at MBA’s 2022 Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “The shifting data privacy and data protection landscape” at MBA’s 2022 Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to provide “An update on key fair lending cases and the CRA and UDAAP rules” at MBA’s 2022 Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Fundamentals of financial crime compliance” at the Practicing Law Institute
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Ongoing CDD: Operational considerations” at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA Seminar
- James C. Chou to discuss ransomware at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA seminar