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On June 12, NYDFS issued an industry letter and a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to mortgage servicers in response to inquiries regarding the requirements and implementation of 3 NYCRR Part 419 (Final Part 419), which governs the conduct and business practices for mortgage loan servicers operating in New York. Final Part 419 “codifies certain requirements imposed by Regulations X and Z and best practices that have become commonplace since Part 419 was first adopted ten years ago.” The FAQs answer common questions related to topics such as the definition of a servicer, applicability to reverse mortgages, small servicer exemptions, and escrow account analysis requirements for borrowers with loans in forbearance as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The industry letter and FAQs also highlight two specific issues concerning the application of Final Part 419 on open-end credit plans or Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs):
- While Final Part 419 applies to HELOCs, NYDFS clarifies that, until further notice, a servicer that furnishes a periodic statement to a borrower in connection with an open-end credit plan or HELOC that “complies with the requirements of 12 CFR § 1026.7(a) is not required to furnish a periodic statement to such borrower pursuant to Part 419.4(c).”
- Because the requirements of 3 NYCRR §419.7 governing delinquencies and loss mitigation efforts currently only apply to open-end credit plans or HELOCs that are in first lien positions, NYDFS states it will not apply these provisions to open-end credit plans or HELOCs that are not in a first lien position.
NYDFS states that it “will continue to monitor the application of these two interpretations and their impact on consumers and may revisit them at a later date.” Final Part 419, as extended, is effective June 15.
On April 8, the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for a bank, its employees, and the plaintiff’s former husband (collectively, “defendants”), concluding, among other things, that under the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (OCSPA) the defendants could not be considered “suppliers,” transactions with national banks are not covered, and bank employees were not considered “loan officers.” According to the opinion, a homeowner filed a lawsuit alleging the defendants fraudulently opened a home equity line of credit by allowing the plaintiff’s former husband to sign the homeowner’s name with the bank employees’ assistance in notarizing the signature. The homeowner alleged various claims, including that the defendants violated the OCSPA’s provision prohibiting a “supplier” from committing “an unfair or deceptive act or practice in connection with a consumer transaction.” The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The homeowner appealed, arguing that the bank employees were acting as “loan officers” and therefore, they qualified as “suppliers” under the OCSPA. The appellate court noted that while the term “supplier” does include “loan officer,” the statute explicitly states that “loan officer” does not include “an employee of a bank…organized under the laws of this state, another state, or the United States.” Moreover, the OCSPA provides that consumer transactions do not include transactions with financial institutions, except in certain circumstances, which are not applicable to the action. Therefore, the lower court did not err in its summary judgment ruling.
On October 15, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the CFPB or Bureau) issued a final rule that will expand the scope of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data reporting requirements while seeking to streamline certain existing requirements. Although some of the new data points the Bureau is requiring are expressly mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act, the Bureau is also requiring a significant number of new data points based on discretionary rulemaking authority granted by the Act.
While we describe the amended rule below in greater detail, highlights include:
- Expanded data-collection under the revised rule will begin on January 1, 2018, and reporting will begin in 2019. The Bureau would have been allowed under Dodd-Frank to require data-collection beginning in 2017 (at least nine months after issuance of the rule) but responded to industry requests for more time to convert systems to meet the extensive new data-collection requirements of the amended rule.
- The amended rule substantially expands the number of data points collected from financial institutions, including requiring reporting of rate spreads on most originated loans and lines of credit, not just higher-cost closed-end loans. However, the Bureau still has not decided the extent to which this information, which includes sensitive personal data such as credit scores, will be publicly available. It will solicit additional public input on privacy concerns before it determines how much of the information will be disclosed.
- The amended rule will require financial institutions to report home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and reverse mortgages. However, in response to widespread criticism by industry commenters, the CFPB did not adopt its proposal to require reporting of all commercial-purpose loans secured by a dwelling.
- The amended rule does not make significant substantive changes to the definition of an “application” or to the “broker rule,” but it does reorganize and clarify existing Commentary provisions on those issues.
- The amended rule requires both depository and nondepository institutions that originated at least 25 closed-end mortgage loans or at least 100 open-end lines of credit in each of the two preceding calendar years to report HMDA data, so long as the institution meets all of the other tests for coverage of that type of institution.
Questions regarding the matters discussed in this Alert may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.
Maryland Court of Appeals Rules Borrowers Barred By Three-Year Statute of Limitations in HELOC Decision
On June 23, The Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals in Windesheim v. Larocca, 2015 WL 3853500 (MD. 2015), holding that the statute of limitations for a mortgage origination fraud case began to run at origination because the borrowers had inquiry notice of the loan terms. Under the alleged “buy-first-sell-later” scheme, the borrower-plaintiffs contend that the realtor and lender-defendants encouraged the borrowers to open home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) on their current homes while simultaneously selling their current homes. The lenders allegedly forged documents and signatures in order to approve both the HELOCs and the mortgages on new homes. The trial court initially found that the claims were time-barred, as the plaintiffs should have discovered the alleged fraud when the loans were originated. On appeal to the Court of Special Appeals, Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, the plaintiffs succeeded in reversing the decision of the trial court. The defendants then filed their own appeal, and the Court of Appeals sided with the trial court in holding that the three-year statute of limitations had run. In particular, the Court of Appeals held that the borrowers had inquiry notice at origination because they signed the loan applications and thus were “presumed to have read and understood their contents.” Furthermore, the statute of limitations was not tolled by Maryland law or the fiduciary rule “because there is neither evidence that the Petitioners encouraged Borrowers not to read the Applications nor evidence that the Borrowers and Petitioners were in a fiduciary relationship.” The Court of Appeals further held that the defendants neither engaged in nor conspired to engage in false or misleading indirect advertising regarding secondary mortgage loans.
On July 24, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the CFPB or Bureau) issued a proposed rule that would expand the scope of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data reporting requirements and streamline certain existing reporting requirements. Although some of the new data points the Bureau is proposing to collect were expressly mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act, the Bureau also proposed a significant number of new data points based on discretionary rulemaking authority granted by the Act.
While we describe the proposal below in greater detail, highlights include:
- The proposal would substantially expand the number of data points collected from financial institutions, including requiring reporting of rate spreads on all loans, not just high cost loans. At least initially, however, this additional information would not be provided to the public on the Loan Application Register (LAR). Instead, the proposal states that the Bureau is still examining privacy concerns related to this information.
- The proposal would require financial institutions to report home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), reverse mortgages, and commercial loans secured by a dwelling.
- The proposal does not provide clarification on the definition of an “application” or the “broker rule.”
Those wishing to comment on the proposal must do so by October 22, 2014. Click here to view the special alert.
Ninth Circuit Holds Plaintiffs Not Required To Plead Tender Or Ability To Tender To Support TILA Rescission Claim
On July 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that an allegation of tender or ability to tender is not required to support a TILA rescission claim. Merritt v. Countrywide Fin. Corp., No. 17678, 2014 WL 3451299 (9th Cir. Jul. 16, 2014). In this case, two borrowers filed an action against their mortgage lender more than three years after origination of the loan and a concurrent home equity line of credit, claiming the lender failed to provide completed disclosures. The district court dismissed the borrowers’ claim for rescission under TILA because the borrowers did not tender the value of their HELOC to the lender before filing suit, and dismissed their RESPA Section 8 claims as time-barred.
On appeal, the court criticized the district court’s application of the Ninth Circuit’s holding in Yamamoto v. Bank of New York, 329 F.3d 1167 (9th Cir. 2003) that courts may at the summary judgment stage require an obligor to provide evidence of ability to tender. Instead, the appellate court held that borrowers can state a TILA rescission claim without pleading tender, or that they have the ability to tender the value of their loan. The court further held that a district court may only require tender before rescission at the summary judgment stage, and only on a case-by-case basis once the creditor has established a potentially viable defense. The Ninth Circuit also applied the equitable tolling doctrine to suspend the one-year limitations period applicable to the borrower’s RESPA claims and remanded to the district court the question of whether the borrowers had a reasonable opportunity to discover the violations earlier. The court declined to address two “complex” issues of first impression: (i) whether markups for services provided by a third party are actionable under RESPA § 8(b); and (ii) whether an inflated appraisal qualifies as a “thing of value” under RESPA § 8(a).
On July 1, the OCC, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the NCUA, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors issued interagency guidance on home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) nearing their end-of-draw periods. The guidance states that as HELOCs transition from their draw periods to full repayment, some borrowers may have difficulty meeting higher payments resulting from principal amortization or interest rate reset, or renewing existing loans due to changes in their financial circumstances or declines in property values. As such, the guidance describes the following “core operating principles” that the regulators believe should govern oversight of HELOCs nearing their end-of-draw periods: (i) prudent underwriting for renewals, extensions, and rewrites; (ii) compliance with existing guidance, including but not limited to the Credit Risk Management Guidance for Home Equity Lending and the Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies; (iii) use of well-structured and sustainable modification terms; (iv) appropriate accounting, reporting, and disclosure of troubled debt restructurings; and (v) appropriate segmentation and analysis of end-of-draw exposure in allowance for loan and lease losses estimation processes. The guidance also outlines numerous risk management expectations, and states that institutions with a significant volume of HELOCs, portfolio acquisitions, or exposures with higher-risk characteristics should have comprehensive systems and procedures to monitor and assess their portfolios, while less-sophisticated processes may be sufficient for community banks and credit unions with small portfolios, few acquisitions, or exposures with lower-risk characteristics.
On January 31, the Texas Supreme Court released a January 24 supplemental opinion clarifying a June 2013 opinion in which it invalidated state regulations that (i) defined “interest” with regard to home equity loans to exclude lender-retained fees, and (ii) would have allowed borrowers to mail consent to a lender to have a lien placed on the homestead and to attend the equity loan closing through an agent. Finance Commission of Texas v. Norwood, No. 10-0121, 2014 WL 349790 (Tex. Jan. 24, 2013). The Texas Bankers Association sought clarification as to whether interest paid at closing falls outside the definition of interest, noting (i) that interest can be paid at closing for part of a payment period, calculated per diem, until the regular payment date, and (ii) that a borrower may pay discount points at closing to lower the interest rate for the term of the loan. In its supplemental opinion, the court held that per diem interest is still interest, even if prepaid, and that legitimate or “bona fide” discount points to lower the loan interest rate are, in effect, a substitute for interest. The court further explained that true discount points are not fees “necessary to originate, evaluate, maintain, record, insure, or service,” but are an option available to the borrower and thus are not subject to the three percent cap. The court also reaffirmed its holding requiring borrowers to be present at closing. It rejected the bankers’ argument that requiring a power of attorney, like other closing documents, to be executed “at the office of the lender, an attorney at law, or a title company” can be a hardship on certain borrowers for whom such locations are not readily accessible, explaining that such hardships are a public policy issue that should be addressed by the framers and ratifiers of the state Constitution.
On January 10, 2014, the CFPB published a notice in the Federal Register that three mortgage publications lenders are required to provide to borrowers have been revised to reflect certain mortgage rules that went into effect on that date. These publications, which are available on the CFPB’s “Learn More” web page, are: (i) the What You Should Know About Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC) Brochure; (ii) the Consumer Handbook on Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (CHARM) Booklet; and (iii) the Shopping for Your Home Loan: Settlement Cost Booklet (sometimes called the RESPA Booklet).
- HELOC Brochure – The CFPB states that this brochure was revised to add a reference to the requirement that lenders must provide borrowers with a list of housing counselors in their area, CFPB contact information, and updates to other Federal agency contact information. It also adds CFPB resources for consumers, including information about how consumers can submit a complaint to the Bureau, a link to the Bureau’s online ‘‘Ask CFPB’’ tool to find answers to questions about mortgages and other financial topics, and a link to an online tool to find local HUD-approved housing counseling agencies.
- CHARM Booklet – According to the CFPB, these revisions: (i) remove references to certain fees and product types that are no longer permitted, such as prepayment penalties on adjustable-rate mortgages; (ii) add information about the lender’s obligation to consider the borrower’s ability to repay the loan, provide disclosure of interest rate adjustments, and ensure a borrower has received homeownership counseling before making a negative amortization loan; and (iii) add CFPB contact information and resources for consumers and updates to other federal agency contact information.
- RESPA Booklet – The CFPB explains that this booklet was revised to also add contact information and consumer resources, along with information about new servicing protections for borrowers, including servicer obligations to: (i) respond promptly to consumer requests for information and notices of errors; (ii) provide mortgage payoff statements and monthly billing information; and (iii) contact delinquent consumers regarding options to avoid foreclosure.
The notices states that “[t]hose who provide these publications may, at their option, immediately begin using the revised HELOC Brochure, CHARM Booklet, or Settlement Cost Booklet, or suitable substitutes to comply with the requirements in Regulations X and Z. The Bureau understands, however, that some may wish to use their existing stock of publications. Therefore, those who provide these publications may use earlier versions of these publications until existing supplies are exhausted. When reprinting these publications, the most recent version should be used.”
Texas Supreme Court Holding Requires Lender-Retained Fees To Be Factored into Home Equity Loan Fee Cap
On June 21, the Texas Supreme Court invalidated state regulations that defined “interest” with regard to home equity loans to exclude lender-retained fees and allowed home equity loan closings through an agent. Finance Commission of Texas v. Norwood, No. 10-0121, 2013 WL 3119481 (Tex. Jun. 21, 2013). The state constitution caps home equity loan fees at three percent of principal, but excludes “interest” from the definition of “fees.” The Texas Supreme Court held that a state regulation that defined “interest” for the purpose of home equity lending by referencing a state code definition that excludes lender-retained fees effectively rendered the constitutional fee cap meaningless by giving the state legislature authority to modify the cap. The legislature’s broader definition of interest was designed to prohibit usury, a function inversely related to the constitutional cap for home equity loans, the court explained. The court held that the constitutional definition of interest means the amount determined by multiplying the loan principal by the interest rate, and therefore does not include lender-retained fees. The court also invalidated a regulation that allowed borrowers to mail consent to a lender to have a lien placed on the homestead and to attend the equity loan closing through an agent, reasoning that a constitutional provision designed to prohibit the coercive closing of a home equity loan at the owner’s home requires that execution of consent or a power of attorney must occur at one of the locations specified in the provision – the office of the lender, an attorney, or a title company. Finally, the court upheld a regulation that created a rebuttable presumption that a specific home equity loan consumer disclosure required by the state constitution is received three days after it is mailed.