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VA Extends Foreclosure Moratorium Following Hurricane Disasters; Federal Agencies Issue Appraisal Exceptions; Freddie Mac Extends Temporary Selling Requirements Related to Wildfire Areas
Hurricane Relief. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is extending the foreclosure moratorium on properties affected by the recent hurricanes. For disaster areas impacted by Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the VA is updating the original circulars to change the 90-day moratorium to 180 days (a complete list of change notices can be found here).
On October 24, the FDIC, Federal Reserve, National Credit Union Administration, and the OCC issued a temporary exception to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) appraisal requirements for areas affected by the recent hurricanes. More specifically, the FDIC's Financial institution Letter states that the agency will not require financial institutions to obtain appraisals for affected transactions, if (i) the properties involved are located in areas declared major disasters; (ii) there are binding commitments to fund the transactions within 36 months of the date the areas were declared major disasters; and (iii) the value of the real properties support the institutions' decisions to enter into the transactions.
California Wildfire Relief. On October 25, Freddie Mac released Guide Bulletin 2017-24 extending the temporary selling requirements applied to hurricane disaster areas to eligible disaster areas impacted by the California wildfires. As previously covered by InfoBytes, Freddie Mac is requiring servicers to suspend foreclosure sales and eviction activities and has agreed to reimburse sellers for certain property inspections for property located in eligible disaster areas.
Here is a complete list of InfoBytes disaster relief coverage.
FinCEN Encourages Communication from Financial Institutions Affected by the California Wildfires; FDIC Offers Regulatory Relief; FHA Extends Foreclosure Moratorium
California Wildfire Relief. On October 19, FinCEN announced that financial institutions affected by the California wildfires should contact FinCEN and their functional regulator regarding any delays in their ability to file Bank Secrecy Act reports and to keep FinCEN and the regulators apprised of subsequent changes in their circumstances.
On October 20, the FDIC announced steps to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and facilitate recovery in areas of California affected by recent wildfires. The FDIC is encouraging banks to work constructively with borrowers affected by the wildfires, including extending repayment terms, restructuring existing loans, or easing terms for new loans. The FDIC noted that financial institutions may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) consideration in support of disaster recovery and will consider regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements.
Hurricane Relief. On October 20, HUD issued an additional 90-day extension of the initial disaster foreclosure moratorium for FHA mortgaged properties located in specified areas impacted by the recent hurricanes. The foreclosure moratorium applies to the initiation of foreclosures and foreclosures already in process. The new extended dates are as follows: February 21, 2018 for Hurricane Harvey, March 9, 2018 for Hurricane Irma, and March 19, 2018 for Hurricane Maria.
As previously discussed in InfoBytes, several federal agencies have announced regulatory relief for victims of recent natural disasters.
On October 13, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released two circulars (here and here) describing measures mortgagees may employ to provide relief to VA home loan borrowers affected by recent California wildfires and Hurricane Nate. Referencing the VA’s guidance on natural disasters, the VA’s recommendations include: (i) extending forbearance to distressed borrowers; (ii) establishing a 90-day moratorium on initiating foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waiving late charges; (iv) suspending credit bureau reporting with the understanding that servicers will not be penalized by the VA; and (v) extending “special forbearance” to National Guard members who report for active duty to assist recovery efforts.
Separately, on October 17, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, National Credit Union Administration, and OCC released a joint notice under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act that temporarily eases appraisal requirements for real estate-related financial transactions in areas impacted by recent hurricane disasters. The four agencies will allow appraisal exceptions, provided that financial institutions determine, and obtain documentation related to, the following: (i) the property involved is located in a major disaster area; (ii) there exists a binding commitment to fund the transaction within 36 months of the date the area was declared a major disaster; and (iii) “the value of the real property supports the institution’s decision to enter into the transaction.” The expiration date for exceptions in each area covered by the notice is three years after the date the President declared the area to be a major disaster area.
As previously discussed in InfoBytes, several federal agencies have announced regulatory relief for victims of recent natural disasters.
Federal agencies continue to announce regulatory relief for financial institutions aiding consumers affected by recent hurricane disasters. InfoBytes coverage on previous disaster relief measures can be accessed here, here, and here.
Freddie Mac. On September 25, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2017-21 (Bulletin) to extend certain temporary selling and servicing requirements meant to provide flexibility and relief for mortgages and borrowers in areas impacted by all hurricanes occurring on or after August 25 through the 2017 hurricane season. In particular, Freddie Mac will reimburse sellers for property inspections completed prior to the sale or securitization of mortgages secured by properties in disaster areas caused by a 2017 hurricane. Freddie Mac is also requiring servicers to suspend foreclosure sales and eviction activities on property located in eligible disaster areas affected by Hurricane Maria. However, the Bulletin provides that a servicer can proceed with a foreclosure sale if it can confirm that (i) inspection was completed on a mortgaged property “identified as vacant or abandoned prior to Hurricane Maria,” and (ii) the property sustained no “insurable damage.” The Bulletin also reminds servicers to report all mortgages affected by an eligible disaster that are 31 or more days delinquent to Freddie Mac.
Veterans Affairs (VA). On September 27, the VA issued Circular 26-17-28 to outline measures that it encourages mortgagees to utilize to provide relief to veterans affected by Hurricane Maria. Specific recommendations include: (i) extending forbearance to distressed borrowers; (ii) establishing a 90-day moratorium on initiating foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waiving late charges; (iv) suspending credit bureau reporting with the understanding that servicers will not be penalized by the VA; and (v) extending “special forbearance” to National Guard members who report for active duty to assist recovery efforts.
FDIC. On September 27, the FDIC released a financial institution letter to provide additional guidance for depository institutions assisting affected consumers. As previously covered in Infobytes, the FDIC released guidance for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief, and issued a joint press release in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Board, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, and the OCC as a response to those affected by Hurricane Irma. The newest release, FIL-46-2017, announced regulatory relief for financial institutions affected by Hurricane Maria, and steps to facilitate recovery in affected areas, which include: (i) “extending repayment terms, restructuring existing loans, or easing terms for new loans,” and (i) “encourage[ing] depository institutions to use non-documentary verification methods permitted by the Customer Identification Program requirement of the Bank Secrecy Act for affected customers who cannot provide standard identification documents.” Further, banks that support disaster recovery efforts, the FDIC noted, may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration.
SEC. On September 28, the SEC issued an order providing regulatory relief to companies and individuals with federal securities law obligations who have been affected by recent natural disasters. The order provides conditional exemptions to certain securities laws requirements for specified periods of time. The Commission additionally adopted “interim final temporary rules” applicable to Regulation Crowdfunding and Regulation A filing deadline extensions.
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). On October 3, FinCEN issued a notice to financial institutions that file Bank Secrecy Act reports to encourage communication with FinCEN and their functional regulator regarding any expected filing delays caused by recent hurricanes.
President Trump Signs Government Funding Package, Temporarily Extends National Flood Insurance Program
On September 8, President Trump signed a government-funding package (H.R. 601) that temporarily extends the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was set to expire September 30, through December 8. The extension provides Congress additional time to establish a long-term financial solution. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the NFIP here.) The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017, also temporarily lifts the nation’s debt ceiling, funding the federal government through December 8, and delivers the first installment of emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
CFPB, Federal and State Banking Agencies Issue Guidance for Financial Institutions on Providing Disaster Relief to Consumers
As previously reported in InfoBytes, several federal banking agencies have already issued guidance and resources for national banks and federal savings associations aiding consumers affected by recent disasters. On September 1, the CFPB issued a statement for CFPB-supervised entities on ways to provide assistance to consumers who may be at financial risk. The list includes:
- offering penalty-free forbearance or repayment periods with disclosed terms;
- limiting or waiving fees and charges, including overdraft fees, ATM fees, or late fees;
- restructuring or refinancing existing debt, including extending repayment terms;
- easing documentation or credit-extension requirements;
- increasing capacity for customer service hotlines, particularly those that serve consumers in languages other than English; and
- increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits.
The statement further suggests that supervised entities should utilize existing regulatory flexibility if doing so would benefit affected consumers. Included are examples from Regulations B, X, and Z. Additionally, the Bureau stated it will “consider the circumstances that supervised entities may face following a major disaster and will be sensitive to good faith efforts to assist consumers.”
The CFPB separately published a blog post for consumers containing a financial toolkit that includes links to disaster relief organizations, ways to secure financial needs, and information on forbearance options, insurance settlements, and contractor evaluations. The CFPB also issued a warning to consumers of the increased risk of scams and fraud.
In related news, on September 6, the Federal Reserve Board, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, FDIC, and OCC issued a joint press release for financial institutions that may be impacted by Hurricane Irma. The agencies encouraged constructive cooperation with borrowers, noting that “prudent efforts to adjust or alter terms on existing loans in affected areas should not be subject to examiner criticism.” Guidance was also issued on matters concerning Community Reinvestment Act considerations, investments, regulatory reporting requirements, publishing requirements, and temporary banking facilities.
OCC Bulletin 2012-28. The OCC bulletin rescinds and replaces previously issued natural disaster guidance and encourages banks serving affected customers to consider the following: (i) “waiving or reducing ATM fees”; (ii) “temporarily waiving late payment fees or penalties for early withdrawal of savings”; (iii) assisting borrowers based on individual situations, when appropriate, by restructuring debt obligations or adjusting payment terms—not to generally exceed 90 days; (iv) “expediting lending decisions when possible”; (v) “originating or participating in sound loans to rebuild damaged property”; and (vi) communicating with state and federal agencies to help mitigate the effects. “Examiners will not criticize these types of responses as long as the actions are taken in a manner consistent with sound banking practices,” the OCC announced. The bulletin also provides additional resources on accounting and reporting issues and Qualified Thrift Lender requirements, among other things.
FDIC FIL-38-2017. The FDIC financial institution letter (FIL) provides similar guidance for depository institutions assisting affected customers. FIL guidance includes the following suggestions: (i) “waiving ATM fees for customers and non-customers”; (ii) “increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits”; (iii) waiving items such as overdraft fees, time deposit early withdrawal penalties, availability restrictions on insurance checks, and credit card/loan balance late fees; (iv) “easing restrictions on cashing out-of-state and non-customer checks” as well as “easing credit card limits and credit terms for new loans”; (v) allowing borrowers to defer or skip some loan payments; and (vi) “delaying the submission of delinquency notices to the credit bureaus.” “Prudent efforts by depository institutions to meet customers' cash and financial needs generally will not be subject to examiner criticism,” the FIL noted. Also, the FDIC “encourages depository institutions to use non-documentary verification methods permitted by the Customer Identification Program requirement of the Bank Secrecy Act for affected customers who cannot provide standard identification documents.”
On February 14, the FDIC issued guidance (FIL-9-2017) intended to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and to facilitate recovery in areas of Louisiana affected by recent severe storms, tornadoes, high winds, and flooding. A current list of designated areas—where damage assessments are currently underway—is available at www.fema.gov. Among other things, the guidance encourages banks to “work constructively with borrowers experiencing difficulties” due to weather-related damage by considering “[e]xtending repayment terms, restructuring existing loans, or easing terms for new loans.” Such flexibility, the FDIC instructs, can both “contribute to the welfare of the local community” and also “serve the long-term interests of the lending institution.” The FDIC is also considering “regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements.”
On August 15, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2013-15, which updates and revises many of its servicing requirements, including those related to assistance for borrowers impacted by an eligible disaster. With respect to such impacted borrowers, the Bulletin provides updated requirements related to (i) property protection activities, such as ascertaining the extent of the damage, and, if necessary, securing abandoned properties, (ii) managing the delinquency of a borrower whose mortgaged premises or place of employment was impacted by a disaster, (iii) the addition of the new Disaster Relief Modification for Borrowers who were current or less than 31 days delinquent at the time of a disaster, (iv) streamlined modifications for borrowers who were current or less than 31 days delinquent at the time of a disaster, (v) Trial Period Plan eligibility requirements, (vi) insurance loss settlements, and (vi) credit reporting. The Bulletin also instructs servicers to follow applicable state laws when handling Freddie Mac default legal matters (e.g. foreclosure) and adds a new Guide chapter about when servicers should take advantage of state procedures that allow for quickly completing foreclosures. Further, the Bulletin (i) revises requirements for servicemembers and their dependents, (ii) revises property inspection requirements, (iii) revises requirements for the reimbursement of attorney fees and costs related to contested foreclosures and mediation, expenses incurred for title work, and condominium, homeowners association and Planned Unit Development assessments in super lien states, (iv) permanently extends the submission time frame for 104SF claims from 30 days to 45 days, and (v) updates unemployment forbearance requirements.
On August 7, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2013-16, which updates assistance policies for borrowers affected by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, or other catastrophes caused by a person or event beyond the borrower’s control. The announcement provides a table of new pre-approved forbearance terms for borrowers affected by a disaster. Fannie Mae reminds servicers that while they have discretion to determine the appropriate duration of forbearance, any forbearance that exceeds the set terms must be approved in writing by Fannie Mae. The announcement also (i) updates requirements for insurance claim settlements, (ii) requires that income documentation be no more than 180 days old at the time of the post-disaster foreclosure prevention alternative evaluation, (iii) directs servicers to suspend credit reporting for a disaster-impacted borrower during a repayment plan or Trial Period Plan if the borrower is making the required payments, (iv) reduces eligibility requirements for streamlined modifications for borrowers completing a disaster-related forbearance plan in a FEMA-declared disaster area, (v) introduces a new modification, the Cap and Extended Modification for Disaster Relief, and (vi) addresses escrow analysis requirements prior to offering a Trial Period Plan for certain disaster-related modifications. All of these policy changes took effect immediately.
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable