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On June 28, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-19-17, which provides new funding fee guidance to lenders and servicers concerning Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loans (IRRRLs). The new guidance, effective immediately, requires, among other things, that: (i) a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) be obtained for IRRRLs to ensure the funding fee exemption information is up to date at the time of closing; (ii) lenders ask active duty servicemembers if they have a pre-discharge claim pending, and, if so, contact the Regional Loan Center to request assistance in obtaining a proposed or memorandum rating in the event the servicemember is eligible for a funding fee exemption; and (iii) if a lender or servicer is notified by the VA or the veteran of an overpayment of a funding fee, such lender initiate a refund request in the Funding Fee Payment System (FFPS) within three business days.
District Court orders mortgage company to pay $260,000 in civil money penalties for deceiving veterans about refinance benefits
On December 21, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada ordered a non-bank mortgage company to pay $268,869 in redress to consumers and a civil penalty of $260,000 in an action brought by the CFPB for engaging in allegedly deceptive lending practices to veterans about the benefits of refinancing their mortgages. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB had alleged that, during in-home presentations, the company used flawed “apples to apples” comparisons between the consumers’ mortgages and a Department of Veterans Affairs’ Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan. According to the Bureau, the presentations misrepresented the cost savings of the refinance by (i) inflating the future amount of principal owed under the existing mortgage; (ii) overestimating the future loan’s term, which underestimated the future monthly payments; and (iii) overestimating the total monthly benefit of the loan after the first month. In addition to the monetary penalties, the order prohibits the company from misrepresenting the terms or benefits of mortgage refinancing and requires the company to submit a compliance plan to the Bureau.
On December 6, the CFPB announced the filing of a complaint and proposed final judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada against a non-bank mortgage company for allegedly deceiving veterans about the benefits of refinancing their mortgages in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act. According to the complaint, during in-home presentations, the company would allegedly use flawed “apples to apples” comparisons between the consumers’ mortgages and an Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan (a loan, guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which allows veterans to refinance mortgages at lower interest rates). The Bureau alleges the presentations misrepresented the future cost savings of the refinance by (i) inflating the future amount of principal owed under the existing mortgage; (ii) overestimating the future loan’s term, which underestimated the future monthly payments; and (iii) overestimating the total monthly benefit of the loan after the first month.
If ordered by the court, the judgment would require the company to pay $268,869 in redress to consumers and a civil penalty of $260,000; it would also prohibit the company from misrepresenting the terms or benefits of mortgage refinancing.
On July 3, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published in the Federal Register an interpretive rule regarding the loan-seasoning requirement for Ginnie Mae mortgage-backed securities from the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act), S.2155/ P.L. 115-174. The interpretive rule establishes that (i) any VA refinance mortgage that does not meet the requirements of the Act is not eligible to serve as collateral for Ginnie Mae mortgage-backed securities; (ii) any VA refinance mortgage that does not meet the Act’s requirements, but was guaranteed before the Act’s enactment are unaffected; and (iii) the Act does not prohibit Ginnie Mae from guaranteeing Multiclass Securities where the trust assets consist of certificates previously lawfully guaranteed with underlying VA refinance loans that may not meet the requirements of the Act. Comments on the interpretive rule must be submitted by August 2.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, Ginnie Mae issued All Participants Memorandum APM 18-04, which establishes (in accordance with the Act) that in order to be eligible for Ginnie Mae securities, the date of the VA refinance loan must be on or after the later of (i) 210 days after the date of the first payment made on the loan being refinanced; and (ii) the date of the sixth monthly payment made on the loan being refinanced.
On May 31, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-18-14 to clarify requirements regarding lender certifications for VA-guaranteed loans. The circular reminds lenders originating VA loans that the lender must certify to the VA that the loans “were made in full compliance with the law and loan guaranty regulations” regardless of the type of VA-guaranteed loan being initiated. The circular highlights that the lender certification is required on the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRL). The circular is effective through July 1, 2020.
VA issues policy guidance on VA refinance loans in response to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act
On May 25, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-18-13 discussing the impact of “The Protecting Veterans from Predatory Lending Act of 2018” (the Act), which was included in the recently enacted bipartisan regulatory relief bill, Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, S. 2155, previously covered by InfoBytes here. The Act addresses “loan churning” of VA-guaranteed refinance loans and sets out new requirements for VA eligibility. As of May 25, a lender (broker or agent included), a servicer, or issuer of an Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) must, among other things:
- Recoup Fees. Certify that certain fees and costs of the loan will be recouped on or before 36 months after the loan note date;
- Establish a Net Tangible Benefit. Establish that when the previous loan had a fixed interest rate (i) the new fixed interest rate is at least 0.5 percent lower or (ii) if the new loan has an adjustable rate, that the rate is at least 2 percent lower than the previous loan. In each instance, the lower rate cannot be produced solely from discount points except in certain circumstances; and
- Apply a Seasoning Period. Follow a seasoning requirement for all VA-guaranteed loans. A loan cannot be refinanced by an IRRRL or a VA cash-out refinance (if the new principle amount is less than the loan being refinanced) until (i) 210 days after the date of the first payment made on the loan and (ii) the date of the sixth monthly payment is made on the loan.
The circular is rescinded on January 1, 2020.
On April 5, the Department of Veterans Affairs released FAQs regarding policy guidance for VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRL). The FAQs address a range of questions regarding the IRRRL policy guidance issued in February (previously covered by InfoBytes here), including noting that the requirement to provide the Lender Certification disclosure with initial disclosure documents has been removed. If a Lender Certification is necessary, the lender will be required to provide the document at closing. Additionally, the FAQs clarify that, while the lender will need to be able to demonstrate that the Veteran’s Statement was sent to and received by the veteran in the initial disclosure package, the VA will not require the veteran’s signature until the final statement given with the closing documents.
On February 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs released Circular 26-18-1, which informs lenders about new policy guidance for Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRL) disclosures. Effective April 1, lenders are required to provide the Veteran’s Statement disclosure and the Lender Certification disclosure (if applicable) with the initial disclosure documents, which should be no later than three business days after receiving an application, and should confirm delivery in the Loan Guaranty Certificate process. According to the circular, the early disclosure of the Veteran’s Statement will assist the borrower in making informed decisions about whether the IRRRL is in their best interest. The circular also provides details for lenders about what specific information needs to be included in the Veteran’s Statement throughout the loan process.
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