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On December 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s grant of summary judgement in favor of a bank and mortgage servicer defendants in an action brought by a consumer to prevent foreclosure of his property. According to the unpublished opinion, in 2016, the consumer, who was struggling with his mortgage payments, submitted loan modification requests on three occasions. In each request, the consumer provided written acknowledgment of the original debt and expressed his desire to pay in order to keep his property. The consumer asserted that Washington state law and the FDCPA prohibited the defendants from instituting foreclosure proceedings on his mortgage because the six-year statute of limitations for filing for foreclosure had expired. On appeal, the three judge panel rejected the consumer’s argument, determining that the limitation on filing for foreclosure had not run, explaining that because the consumer had not communicated to defendants “an intent not to pay,” and each of the modification requests acknowledged the debt in writing, the foreclosure statute of limitations period was restarted each of the three times he submitted his loan modification requests.
On October 18, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington granted in part a national bank’s motion to dismiss, but allowed the plaintiffs’ claim under the Washington Consumer Protection Act (WCPA) to move forward. According to the opinion, in 2011, a national bank denied the plaintiffs’ mortgage modification, and in 2012, the plaintiffs’ home was foreclosed upon. In August 2018, the national bank disclosed that approximately 625 mortgage modification applications were improperly denied due to a calculation error in the bank’s software. The bank informed the plaintiffs of the error, provided a check for $15,000, and after mediation, paid the plaintiffs another $25,000. The plaintiffs filed a class action against the bank, asserting claims for violation of the WCPA and unjust enrichment. The bank moved to dismiss the action, arguing, among other things, that the WCPA claim was an “impermissible attempt to enforce the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which creates no private right of action.” The court disagreed with the bank, determining that while the mortgage modification application was filed pursuant to HAMP, the plaintiffs “do not seek to enforce HAMP.” Instead, the plaintiffs argue that the wrongful denial of their application and failure to disclose the calculation error for three years “constitutes unfair or deceptive conduct in violation of the [WCPA].” The court concluded that the WCPA claim “is not an improper attempt to enforce” HAMP, as HAMP is merely “a ‘component’ of the [WCPA] claim.” The court went on to grant the bank’s motion to dismiss as to the unjust enrichment claim, while granting the plaintiffs’ request to amend their complaint.
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 September 14, the California governor signed SB 818, which permanently reinstates and amends certain provisions of California’s Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), which expired on January 1, 2018. The revised and restored provisions of the HBOR, among other things, require entities that foreclosed on more than 175 first lien mortgages and deeds of trust on owner-occupied residences during the prior reporting year to: (i) stop foreclosure proceedings if a complete loan modification application is submitted and pending, a homeowner is in compliance with a foreclosure prevention alternative, or an appeal of a loan modification denial is pending; (ii) include in the notice of default a specified declaration regarding contact with a borrower; (iii) send a written notice of a loan modification denial, specifying the reasons for the denial and providing foreclosure prevention alternatives; (iv) assign a single point of contact to any borrower who requests foreclosure prevention assistance; (v) not charge fees in conjunction with applications for foreclosure prevention alternatives; and (vi) honor loss mitigation alternatives following servicing transfers. The legislation also adds a legislative intent clause that emphasizes that any amendment, addition, or repeal of an HBOR section will not have the effect to release, extinguish, or change any liability under a previous section that was in effect at the time of an action.
On September 11, the California governor approved SB 1201, which amends the state civil code to, among other things, require any supervised financial institution that negotiates a mortgage loan modification with a borrower primarily in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean and offers the borrower a final loan modification in writing, to deliver to the borrower at the same time, a specified form summarizing the modified terms in the same language as the negotiation. The amendments require the California Department of Business Oversight (CDBO) to make available—using CFPB and Fannie Mae forms as guidance—certain disclosures and forms in those specified languages.
The amendments are generally effective on January 1, 2019, with the amendments relating to the new written disclosures to become operative 90 days following the issuance of forms by the CDBO, but not before January 1, 2019.
On June 19, the OCC announced the release of the “OCC Mortgage Metrics Report, First Quarter 2018,” its quarterly report of the performance of seven national bank mortgage servicers, which includes data for over one third of all outstanding U.S. residential mortgages. As explained in the Report, foreclosure activity for the first quarter of 2018 increased by 8 percent from the previous quarter but was down 21.5 percent compared to the first quarter of 2017. Overall, mortgage performance remained unchanged from the first quarter of 2017, with 95.6 percent of mortgages current and performing as of the end of the quarter. Servicers initiated 37,300 new foreclosures in the first quarter of 2018 and completed 23,427 mortgage modifications, with most modifications involving a reduction in borrower monthly payments. The OCC further noted, among other things, that the number of home forfeiture actions during the quarter—completed foreclosure sales, short sales, and deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure actions—decreased by 32.5 percent compared to the first quarter of 2017.
On June 7, the FTC announced a settlement with an individual who allegedly operated a mortgage relief scheme, which charged distressed homeowners thousands in upfront fees while falsely promising foreclosure prevention or payment modifications. According to the FTC, the defendant, operating through multiple company names, falsely suggested the businesses were endorsed by the federal government and encouraged consumers not to communicate with their mortgage company and to stop making monthly mortgage payments. The settlement order imposes a judgment of more than $15.5 million but suspends the judgment due to the individual’s inability to pay. The settlement prohibits the individual from, among other things, (i) advertising, marketing, promoting, offering, or selling debt relief services or products; and (ii) misrepresenting, or assisting others in misrepresenting information relating to the offering of financial products and services. Additionally, the settlement bars the individual from disclosing or benefitting from the information collected from the consumers through the business operations.
On May 8, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released clarification of its Disaster Loan Modification guidance in circular 26-17-39. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.) The revised circular now allows a servicer to re-amortize if necessary to meet investor guidelines, so long as the new monthly payment is the same or less than the current.
Find more InfoBytes disaster relief coverage here.
On April 11, Fannie Mae updated its Servicing Guide, regarding servicing transfer welcome calls. Pursuant to Fannie Mae SVC-2018-03, transferee servicers are no longer required to, among other things, initiate welcome calls within five days of the transfer of servicing. Transferee servicers may now implement their own processes for borrower contact as long as the servicer remains in compliance with applicable laws. Fannie Mae also updated the Servicing Guide to add flexibility in connection with the collection of escrow shortages during a mortgage modification. Under the amendment to the Servicing Guide, servicers may spread repayment of the shortage amount over a term of up to 60 months, unless the borrower decides to pay up-front. Additionally, Fannie Mae released a revised Reverse Mortgage Loan Servicing Manual, which includes updates to expense reimbursement claim submissions and mortgage loan status codes.
On the same day, Freddie Mac released Guide Bulletin 2018-6, which, among other things, updates servicer requirements on Subsequent Transfers of Servicing (STOS) and borrower-paid mortgage insurance. Effective July 23, transferor servicers must use the automated STOS request system and new transfer requests must be submitted at least 45 days and no more than 60 days prior to the effective date of the transfer. The Bulletin also provides additional details on initiating the electronic STOS and executing the STOS agreement. There will be a temporary moratorium on STOS requests and modifications to existing requests from July 9 through July 20, in order for Freddie Mac to implement the new process.
Separately, the Bulletin includes various changes to streamline servicer responsibilities in canceling borrower-paid mortgage insurance, such as now allowing servicers to process a borrower’s verbal request to cancel mortgage insurance and simplifying the process to determine current value.
Consistent with the Fannie updates, Freddie Mac also modified its escrow shortage collection requirements to allow repayment to be spread over up to 60 months.
On November 27, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a new Disaster Loan Modification option via circular 26-17-39. In addition to the existing VA Disaster Loan Modification process, which allows servicers to extend permanent payment relief to disaster-impacted borrowers without a completed application, the VA will now allow servicers the option to waive the three-month trial period payment (TPP) requirement. According to the circular, servicers will be able to waive the TPP requirement to extend the term of the new loan by the number of months the borrower is delinquent, and must waive any accrued delinquent interest. Additionally, the loan must have been current at the time of the disaster and the VA must approve any term extensions greater than 12 months.
Find more InfoBytes disaster relief coverage here.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “How the new administration sets the tone for 2021” at the American Conference Institute Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Forum on Fintech & Emerging Payment Systems
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP in consumer finance 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