Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
Massachusetts amends mortgage lender/broker licensing provisions
Recently, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, Division of Banks announced final amendments effective May 27 to certain provisions of Regulation 209 CMR 42.00, which establishes procedures and requirements for the licensing and supervision of mortgage lenders under M.G.L. c. 255E. (See also redlined version of the final amendments here.) Specifically, the amendments:
- Add and amend certain definitions. The amendments add new terms such as “Bona Fide Nonprofit Affordable Homeownership Organization” and “Instrumentality Created by the United States or Any State,” and amend “Mortgage Broker” to also include a “person who collects and transmits information regarding a prospective mortgage loan borrower to a third party” that conducts any one or more of the following activities: (i) collects a prospective borrower’s Social Security number; (ii) views a prospective borrower’s credit report; (iii) obtains a prospective borrower’s authorization to access or view the borrower’s credit report or credit score; (iv) accepts an application; or (v) issues a prequalification letter.
- Add licensing exemptions. The amendments provide a list of persons that are not required to be licensed in the state as a mortgage broker or mortgage lender. These include: (i) lenders making less than five mortgage loans and persons acting as mortgage brokers fewer than five times within a 12 consecutive-month period; (ii) banks, national banking associations, federally chartered credit unions, federal savings banks, or any subsidiary or affiliate of the above; (iii) banks, trust companies, savings banks, and credit unions “organized under the laws of any other state; provided, however, that such provisions shall apply to any subsidiary or affiliate, as described in 209 CMR 42.0”; (iv) nonprofit, public, or independent post-secondary institutions; (v) charitable organizations; (vi) certain real estate brokers or salesmen; and (vii) persons whose activities are “exclusively limited to collecting and transmitting” certain quantities of specified information regarding a prospective borrower to a third party.
The amendments also specifically provide that “a person who collects and transmits any information regarding a prospective mortgage loan borrower to a third party and who receives compensation or gain, or expects to receive compensation or gain, that is contingent upon whether the prospective mortgage loan borrower in fact obtains a mortgage loan from the third party or any subsequent transferee of such information, is required to be licensed as a mortgage broker.”
Vermont passes law allowing mortgage employees to work from home
On May 4, the Vermont legislature passed SB 88 (now known as Act 25), which among other things, permits mortgage loan activity to be conducted outside of an entity’s main place of business or branches. Act 25 allows a mortgage originator, broker, or servicer’s employees to work from their residence, assuming the individual is adequately supervised by the employer.
Idaho Department of Finance once again extends “work from home” guidance
On March 31, the Idaho Department of Finance extended its temporary regulatory guidance (previously covered here, here, here) permitting mortgage brokers and lenders, mortgage loan originators, regulated lenders, title lenders, payday lenders, and collection agency licensees and registrants to work from home under certain circumstances. The original guidance (previously covered here) permits employees to work from home where the residence is not a licensed branch and certain data security requirements are met. The guidance is extended through December 31, 2021.
Florida amends licensing application procedures
On December 29, the Florida Department of Financial Services, Office of Financial Regulation (the “Office”) amended rules related to the application procedures for prospective loan originator, mortgage broker , and mortgage lender licensees to provide an additional 45 days for submission of additional application information and to provide for the disposition of incomplete applications. Specifically, the amended rules allow the Office to grant an extension request of up to an additional 45 days to submit any requested information during the application process, so long as the request is made within the initial 45-day deadline. Should a license applicant fail to provide the additional requested information within the approved timeframe, the application will be removed from further consideration by the Office and closed. The amended rules are effective January 18.
Rhode Island regulator extends work from home guidance for lenders
On September 28, the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, Banking Division, extended previous guidance (previously covered here and here) issued to mortgage loan originators, lenders, loan brokers, and exempt company registrants. The guidance permits working from home, even if the home is located outside of Rhode Island or is not a licensed branch, so long as specified data security provisions are met. The department extended this guidance until December 31, 2020.
CFPB settles with three more lenders on misleading VA advertising
Recently, the CFPB announced settlements (see here, here, and here) with three mortgage lenders for mailing consumers advertisements for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgages that allegedly contained misleading statements or lacked required disclosures. According to the Bureau, the lenders offer and provide VA guaranteed mortgage loans, and allegedly sent false, misleading, and inaccurate direct-mail advertisements to service members and veterans in violation of the CFPA, the Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), and Regulation Z. Among other things, the Bureau alleges the advertisements (i) failed to include required disclosures; (ii) stated credit terms that the lenders were not actually prepared to offer; (iii) made “misrepresentations about the existence, nature, or amount of cash available to the consumer in connection with the mortgage credit product”; and (iv) gave the false impression the lenders were affiliated with the government. Two of the lenders also allegedly used the name of the consumer’s current lender in a misleading way, and misrepresented that consumers would receive specific escrow refund amounts if they refinanced their mortgages, even though the advertised amounts “were calculated using a methodology that had no bearing on the actual escrow refund amount,” and consumers were often required to fund new escrow accounts upon generating new loans.
In addition, one of the lender’s advertisements represented to consumers that they could “‘[s]kip two payments’ or ‘miss’ two payments by refinancing with the company,” but failed to disclose, among other things, that the skipped or missed payments would be added to the loan’s principal balance.
The consent orders (see here, here and here) impose bans on future advertising misrepresentations similar to those identified by the Bureau, require the lenders to use a compliance official to review mortgage advertisements for compliance with consumer protection laws, and require compliance with certain enhanced disclosure requirements. The Bureau further imposes civil penalties of $225,000, $50,000, and $230,000 respectively against the lenders.
The latest enforcement actions are part of the Bureau’s “sweep of investigations” related to deceptive VA-mortgage advertisements. In August and July, the Bureau issued consent orders against four other mortgage lenders for similar violations, covered by InfoBytes here and here.
Colorado regulator updates guidance to real estate businesses with new mask requirements
On August 31, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies updated its Safer at Home: Additional Guidance for Real Estate Brokers & Servicers, previously covered here and here, to note that the executive order creating a statewide mask ordinance was extended by Executive Order D 2020 164. Real estate businesses and professionals are encouraged to review the guidance, which responds to frequently asked questions related to real estate services, including field services.
CFPB settles with two mortgage companies over misleading VA loan advertisements
On August 26, the CFPB announced a settlement with a mortgage company to resolve allegations that the company, which is licensed as a mortgage broker or lender in approximately 11 states, sent false, misleading, and inaccurate direct-mail advertisements to servicemembers and veterans for its VA-guaranteed loans in violation of the CFPA, Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), and Regulation Z. According to the Bureau, among other things, the mortgage company (i) advertised credit terms that the lenders were not actually prepared to offer; (ii) failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose payment terms; (iii) made numerous “misrepresentations about the existence, nature, or amount of cash available to the consumer in connection with the mortgage credit product”; and (iv) misrepresented the consumer’s repayment obligations by failing to state the amount of each payment that would apply over the term of the loan or failing to clearly and conspicuously state that actual payment obligations would be greater. In addition to a $260,000 civil money penalty, the consent order requires the company to enhance its compliance functions, designate a compliance official to review mortgage advertisements for compliance with consumer protection laws, and comply with certain enhanced disclosure requirements. Additionally, the company is prohibited from making similar misrepresentations in the future.
Earlier on August 21, the CFPB also announced a settlement with a mortgage company to resolve allegations that the company sent false, misleading, and inaccurate direct-mail advertisements to servicemembers and veterans for its VA-guaranteed loans in violation of the CFPA, Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), and Regulation Z. According to the Bureau, among other things, the mortgage company (i) advertised credit terms that the lenders were not actually prepared to offer; (ii) described variable-rate loans as “fixed,” when in fact the rates were adjustable; (iii) falsely stated or implied that consumers with “FICO scores as low as 500” would qualify for advertised rates; and (iv) gave the false impression the lenders were affiliated with the government. In addition to a $150,000 civil money penalty, the consent order prohibits the company from making similar misrepresentations and requires the company to designate a compliance official to review mortgage advertisements for compliance with consumer protection laws.
The latest enforcement actions are part of the Bureau’s “sweep of investigations” related to deceptive VA-mortgage advertisements. In July, the Bureau issued consent orders with two other mortgage lenders for similar violations, covered by InfoBytes here.
South Carolina regulator extends interim guidance to mortgage brokers permitting remote work
On July 30, South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs updated and extended its interim guidance for mortgage brokers, previously covered here. The interim guidance permitting mortgage loan originators to work remotely will be effective until rescinded. The Department will provide fifteen days’ notice to affected businesses before rescinding the guidance.
Colorado governor permits further extensions of money transmitter and real estate broker licenses
On July 19, the Colorado governor issued Executive Order 2020 141, which extends Executive Order D 2020 015, as amended by several earlier orders, until August 18, 2020. Executive Order D 2020 015 authorizes the Department of Regulatory Agencies to promulgate and issue emergency rules extending the expiration date of licenses issued by the Division of Banking for money transmitters and licenses issued by the Division of Real Estate for real estate brokers.