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On June 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a RESPA action against a mortgage servicer, concluding that rescheduling a foreclosure sale is not a violation of Regulation X’s prohibition on moving for an order of foreclosure sale after a borrower has submitted a complete loss-mitigation application. According to the opinion, a consumer’s home was the subject of an order of foreclosure, and the mortgage servicer subsequently approved a trial loan-modification plan for a six-month period. The servicer filed a motion to reschedule the foreclosure sale so that the sale would not occur unless the consumer failed to comply with the modification plan during the trial period. The consumer filed suit, alleging that the servicer violated Regulation X––which prohibits loan servicers from moving for an order of foreclosure sale after a borrower has submitted a complete loss-mitigation application––because the servicer rescheduled the foreclosure sale instead of cancelling it. The district court dismissed the action.
On appeal, the 11th Circuit agreed with the district court, concluding that the consumer failed to state a claim for a violation of Regulation X. The appellate court reasoned that Regulation X does not prohibit a servicer from moving to reschedule a foreclosure sale as that motion is not the same as the “order of sale,” a substantive and dispositive motion seeking authorization to conduct a sale at all, as referenced in Regulation X. Moreover, the appellate court argued that the consumer’s interpretation of the prohibition is inconsistent with the consumer protection goals of RESPA because it would disincent loan servicers from offering loss-mitigation options and helping borrowers complete loss-mitigation applications, if a foreclosure sale has already been scheduled. Lastly, the appellate court noted that the motion to reschedule is consistent with the CFPB’s commentary that, “[i]t is already standard industry practice for a servicer to suspend a foreclosure sale during any period where a borrower is making payments pursuant to the terms of a trial loan modification,” rejecting the consumer’s argument that the servicer should have cancelled the sale altogether.
On April 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that a consumer’s insurance repayment plan on her reverse mortgage did not qualify as an escrow account under RESPA’s Regulation X. According to the opinion, a consumer’s reverse mortgage required her to maintain hazard insurance on her property, which she elected to pay herself, and did not establish an escrow account with the mortgage servicer to pay her insurance and property taxes. After her insurance lapsed, the mortgage servicer advanced her over $5,000 in funds paid directly to her insurance carrier to ensure the property was covered, subject to a repayment agreement. After the consumer failed to make any payments under the agreement, the servicer initiated a foreclosure action against the consumer and obtained a forced-placed insurance policy when the insurance lapsed for a second time. Ultimately, a state-run forgivable loan program brought the consumer’s past due balance current and excess funds were placed in a trust to cover future insurance payments on the property. The consumer filed an action against the mortgage servicer alleging the servicer violated RESPA’s implementing Regulation X when it initiated forced-placed insurance, because the repayment agreement purportedly established an escrow account, which required the servicer to advance the funds for insurance. The district court entered judgment in favor of the servicer.
On appeal, the 11th Circuit agreed with the district court, concluding that no escrow account existed between the consumer and the servicer, emphasizing that nothing in the repayment agreement set aside funds for the servicer to pay insurance or taxes on the property in the future. The 11th Circuit rejected the consumer’s characterization of the repayment agreement as an arrangement under Regulation X “where the servicer adds a portion of the borrower’s payment to principal and subsequently deducts from principal the disbursements for escrow account items.” The 11th Circuit reasoned that not only did the consumer never make a principal payment to the servicer, the consumer’s characterization is “entirely inconsistent” with the reverse mortgage security instrument. Because the servicer never deducted anything from the principal when it disbursed funds to pay the insurance, the repayment agreement did not qualify as an escrow agreement under Regulation X.
5th Circuit: Loan originators cannot be liable for loan servicers’ violations of RESPA loss mitigation requirements
On December 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit held that a mortgage loan originator cannot be held vicariously liable for a loan servicer’s failure to comply with the loss mitigation requirements of RESPA (and its implementing Regulation X). According to the opinion, in response to a foreclosure action, a consumer filed a third-party complaint against her loan servicers and loan originator alleging, among other things, that the loan servicers had violated Regulation X’s requirement that a servicer evaluate a completed loss mitigation application submitted more than 37 days before a foreclosure sale. In subsequent filings, the consumer clarified that the claims against the loan originator were for breach of contract and vicarious liability for one of the loan servicer’s alleged RESPA violations. The district court dismissed both claims against the loan originator and the consumer appealed the dismissal of the RESPA claim.
On appeal, the 5th Circuit affirmed the dismissal for two independent reasons. First, the 5th Circuit noted it is well established that vicarious liability requires an agency relationship and determined the consumer failed to assert facts that suggested such a relationship existed. Second, in an issue of first impression at the circuit court stage, the court ruled that, as a matter of law, the loan originator could not be vicariously liable for its servicer’s alleged violations of RESPA, as the applicable statutory and regulatory provisions only impose loss mitigation requirements on “servicers,” and therefore only servicers could fail to comply with those obligations. The appellate court reasoned that Congress explicitly imposed RESPA duties more broadly in other sections (using the example of RESPA’s prohibition on kickbacks and unearned fees that applies to any “person”), but chose “a narrower set of potential defendants for the violations [the consumer] alleges.” The court concluded, “the text of this statute plainly and unambiguously shields [the loan originator] from any liability created by the alleged RESPA violations of its loan servicer.”
On August 14, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that RESPA (and its implementing Regulation X) does not require a plaintiff to wait until a property is foreclosed upon to bring an action for a violation of Regulation X’s loss mitigation requirements. The plaintiff filed a complaint against her mortgage servicer for (among other claims) allegedly violating RESPA when the company initiated a foreclosure action while she had a pending loss mitigation application, even though the company did not ultimately foreclose on the property. The company moved to dismiss the RESPA claim as unripe and the court disagreed, finding there is no language in the statute or implementing regulation that states a plaintiff must wait. Conversely, the implementing regulation “expressly states that the prohibited action is a servicer making ‘the first notice or filing required by applicable law…’” and, therefore, the plaintiff’s claim did not fail for lack of ripeness. The court ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s action against the company, however, finding the plaintiff did not adequately plead actual damages, and granted the plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint.
On May 15, the CFPB released the 2018 updated versions of the “Know Before You Owe” mortgage disclosure rule Small Entity Compliance Guide (versions 4.1 and 5.2) and Guide to Forms (versions 1.5 and 2.1). Because the optional compliance period with the 2017 TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID) extends through October 1, the CFPB updated both versions of each guide. Additionally, all four versions are updated with the 2018 TRID changes (covered by InfoBytes here), which will become effective prior to the end of the 2017 optional compliance period.
On April 28, the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities adopted regulations to effectively incorporate Subpart C of the CFPB’s RESPA mortgage servicing regulations (Regulation X), which were amended effective as of April 19. The adopted regulations address, among other things, (i) disclosure requirements; (ii) mortgage servicing transfers; (iii) escrow payments and account balances; (iv) forced-place insurance; and (v) loss mitigation procedures. The adopted regulations were effective on April 28.
On April 19, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) issued a consumer affairs letter (CA 18-3) announcing revised interagency examination procedures for Regulation X (RESPA) and Regulation Z (TILA) that supersede procedures previously issued in September 2015. The updated procedures account for amendments to mortgage servicing rules under Regulations X and Z that took effect October 19, 2017 (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), as well as amendments to Regulation Z published by the CFPB through April 2016, including rules concerning small creditors’ mortgage lending to rural and underserved areas. However, the Fed stated in its letter that, at this time, the updated procedures do not incorporate Regulation Z amendments concerning the CFPB’s TILA-RESPA integrated disclosure rule or those regarding prepaid accounts. These amendments will be addressed in a future update.
CFPB updates mortgage servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide, releases mortgage servicing coverage chart
On March 29, the CFPB released version 3.1 of its mortgage servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide. The updated guide supports the implementation of the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule, including the amendment to the Rule released earlier this month. The Rule replaces the previous single-billing-cycle exemption with a single-statement exemption when servicers transition to providing modified or unmodified periodic statements and coupon books to consumers entering or exiting bankruptcy. See previous InfoBytes coverage here. The Bureau also released a mortgage servicing coverage chart, which summarizes the mortgage servicing rules that will be in effect as of April 19.
On March 20, the CFPB released updated FAQs to support the implementation of the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule. Specifically, the updated FAQs pertain to the mortgage-servicing provisions regarding bankruptcy, which are effective April 19. The CFPB released ten bankruptcy-related question and answers. The bankruptcy topics include periodic statements, coupon books, reaffirmation, successors in interest, and timing of compliance.
CFPB Issues Interim Final Rule Regarding Foreclosure Communications; Seeks Comment on Proposed Rule About Periodic Statements During Bankruptcy
On October 4, the CFPB announced one change and one proposed change to the amendments to its mortgage servicing rules under Regulations X and Z. These amendments, which were previously covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert, are scheduled to take effect in two phases on October 19, 2017 and April 19, 2018.
First, the CFPB amended the amendments to Regulation X’s provision regarding early intervention notices in order to address timing issues that result when a borrower has invoked his or her cease in communication rights under the FDCPA. Had the most recent amendment not been made, a mortgage servicer subject to a cease in communication request would have been required to provide a modified early intervention notice to the borrower every 180 days but not more than once during any 180-day period, leaving no margin for error and creating operational challenges if the 180th day fell on a weekend or holiday. Based on concerns from the mortgage industry the CFPB issued an interim final rule without advance public comment to give servicers a 10-day window to provide the modified notices at the end of the 180-day period. The interim final rule becomes effective on October 19, 2017, at the same time the broader amendments to the early intervention requirements take effect.
Second, the CFPB proposed to update technical aspects of the upcoming periodic statement requirements for borrowers in bankruptcy. Specifically, the CFPB is seeking public comment on changes to the transition rules for borrowers who enter or leave bankruptcy, including replacing the single-billing-cycle exemption with a single-statement exemption for the next periodic statement the servicer would have to provide regardless of when in the billing cycle a triggering event occurs. The Bureau proposed that these amendments take effect on April 19, 2018, at the same time as the new periodic statement requirements for borrowers in bankruptcy.
The comment period on both the interview final rule and the proposed rule will close 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
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