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On May 27, Fannie Mae issued technical updates to Lender Letter LL-2020-07 and LL-2020-05 to include operational requirements related to reporting and completing a Covid-19 payment deferral, as well as the process for obtaining reimbursement for expenses related to the Covid-19 payment deferral. Among other things, servicers are required to pay any expenses associated with the execution of a Covid-19 payment deferral, such as required notary fees, recording costs, and title costs, but Fannie Mae will reimburse allowable expenses in accordance with F-1-05: Expense Reimbursement, in the Fannie Mae Servicing Guide.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced the new Covid-19 payment deferral option to “help borrowers impacted by a hardship related to Covid-19 return their mortgage to a current status after up to 12 months of missed payments.” The new option is for borrowers who (i) are on a Covid-19 related forbearance plan, or (ii) have a resolved financial hardship due to Covid-19. If a borrower is eligible for the Covid-19 payment deferral, the servicer must allow the borrower to resume their contractual monthly payments; however, the delinquency amount must be deferred as a non-interest bearing balance, due and payable at liquidation, refinance, or maturity.
Servicers must begin evaluating borrowers for the Covid-19 payment deferral beginning July 1.
On May 26, Fannie Mae announced a new online resource for homeowners and renters titled, “Here to Help,” which compiles tools and resources to assist consumers with financial hardships due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The online portal features videos, fact sheets, and mortgage loan look-up tools for consumers and also provides lenders and servicers with tools to better assist their customers, including explanations of loss mitigation offerings and training videos for loan servicers.
On May 19, the FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued temporary guidance that would allow borrowers who are in forbearance, or have recently ended forbearance, to be eligible to refinance or purchase a new home. According to Fannie Mae Lender Letter LL-2020-03 and Freddie Mac Bulletin 2020-17, borrowers are eligible to purchase a new home or refinance their mortgage if they are current on their mortgage—defined as having “made all mortgage payments due in the month prior to the note date of the new loan transaction by no later than the last business day of that month”—or if the mortgage is currently in a loss mitigation solution (the borrower must have made at least three timely payments as of the note date of the new transaction). Lenders are required to apply the guidance to loans with application dates on or after June 2, but may apply them immediately.
On the same day, Fannie Mae also issued an update to LL-2020-06, which extends the effective date for eligible loans in forbearance due to a Covid-19 hardship to June 30 with delivery to Fannie Mae by August 31.
On May 14, FHA issued Mortgagee Letter 2020-13, which extends the foreclosure and eviction moratorium in connection with the Covid-19 emergency and issues new reporting requirements related to FHA single family’s CARES Act loss mitigation options. The foreclosure moratorium is extended to June 30, 2020, and applies to FHA-insured single family mortgages, except vacant or abandoned properties. The moratorium on evictions of persons from properties securing FHA-insured single family mortgages, excluding actions to evict occupants of legally vacant or abandoned properties, is also extended for the same period. The bulletin also provides guidance on how mortgagees must report the Default/Delinquency Reason Codes that apply to the borrower at the end of each reporting cycle. The mortgagee must update the code as the borrower’s circumstances change.
The Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Rural Housing Service have jointly issued fact sheets for servicers and for consumers outlining certain requirements and obligations under CARES Act mortgage payment forbearance. The fact sheet for servicers provides guidance for assisting and educating borrowers and explains that loss mitigation options will vary based on the program under which the loan is insured or guaranteed. The fact sheet for consumers provides guidance on requesting forbearance and information on the forbearance program.
On March 30, the Illinois Department of Financial Regulation, Division of Banking and Division of Financial Institutions (Department), issued guidance to Illinois-licensed mortgage servicers and exempt mortgage servicers urging support for borrowers impacted by Covid-19. The Department urges all servicers of nonconforming and private mortgages to implement policies at least as helpful to borrowers as those offered for conforming loans, including, among others: (i) forbearing mortgage payments for at least 90 days without incurring additional interest or fees; (ii) refraining from reporting late payments to credit rating agencies and, when payments are deferred or modified, coding those payments as deferred with the applicable disaster order; (iii) offering loss mitigation options to borrowers; and (iv) waiving late payment fees and online payments fees; and (v) postponing foreclosures and evictions for at least 90 days. Prudent actions taken during this period will be considered to be consistent with safe and sound banking practices and will not be subject to examiner criticism.
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.
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 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.
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Lender town hall" at the National Flood Conference webinar
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "BSA for BSA seasoned officers" at an NAFCU webinar
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss "The CCPA: Successes, failures, and practical considerations for compliance" at a American Bar Association webinar
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "LIBOR transition: Preparations for legal professionals" at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Garylene D. Javier to discuss "Navigating workplace culture in 2020" at the DC Bar Conference