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On March 22, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) issued guidance directed at escrow agents, finance lenders and servicers, student loan servicers, residential mortgage lenders and servicers, and MLOs whose customers may be suffering from loss of income or other financial hardships as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The guidance states that the DBO will not take enforcement action against licensees for operating unlicensed branches if, during the state of emergency, employees conduct activities from home that normally would require a branch license, provided that appropriate measures are taken to protect consumers and their data. The DBO also will not criticize student loan servicers or licensees sponsoring MLOs who permit their respective employees to work from home, provided that certain conditions are met. While the foregoing applies to Escrow Law licensees, the DBO notes that it cannot modify any restrictions that may be imposed by the Fidelity Corporation or the licensee’s surety bond. The DBO offers additional recommendations to licensees, including offering payment accommodations to avoid delinquencies and negative credit bureau reporting, easing terms for new mortgage loans to affected borrowers, and exercising discretion in determining which of their services and transactions are “essential services” for the purposes of “stay-in-place” or “shelter-in-place” orders. The DBO also noted that it will not criticize any late mortgage recordation that result from the closure of a county recorder’s office due to Covid-19.
On March 20, the California Department of Real Estate issued Covid-19 FAQs for licensing and business practices. The FAQs confirm that DRE has cancelled all salesperson and broker license exams through April 30. However, DRE will not extend expiration dates or deadlines for licensees, or waiving fees for late submissions. The FAQs also address the process for rescheduling exams and license renewals. The FAQs note that while the DRE’s offices are closed until further notice, the DRE is still operational by phone, eLicensing, and mail, and indicates further questions and responses regarding business practices will be provided in the future.
On March 23, the chief justice of California ordered superior courts to suspend jury trials for 60 days to mitigate Covid-19 risk. The order also extends statutory deadlines for trials in civil and criminal proceedings, and permits courts to immediately adopt rules for addressing the impact of Covid-19 without the need for public comment.
On March 22, the California Department of Business Oversight (Department) issued guidance to escrow agents, finance lenders and servicers, student loan servicers, residential mortgage lenders and servicers, and mortgage loan originators in light of Covid-19 permitting employees of licensees to conduct activities from home that normally would require a branch license, provided that appropriate measures are taken to protect consumers and their data. Further, the Department will not criticize student loan servicers or licensees sponsoring MLOs who permit their respective employees to work from home, provided that certain data security and other conditions are met. Escrow Law licensees may also follow this guidance, however the licensees must still comply with the Fidelity Corporation or the licensee’s surety bond. Additionally, licensees are encouraged to assist consumers including through, among other things, offering payment accommodations.
California State Assembly Banking and Finance Committee issues memorandum on Covid-19 banking and finance issues
On March 20, the California State Assembly Banking and Finance Committee issued a memorandum noting that state authority over large national banks “is significantly constrained by federal law.” The memorandum provides that, under the National Bank Act and related case law, courts have widely upheld federal preemption over state laws that “interfere with the business of banking.” As such, courts “would likely stop any attempts by the state to force banks to limit rates or fees, demand forbearance or loan modifications, or require banks to make certain loans.” While state officials may urge national banks to give their borrowers relief, “these requests do not carry the force of law.” The memorandum also discusses mortgage rates and home sales, noting that in the event that mortgage rates increase and negatively affect the real estate market, “state legislators have limited tools to address such problems.”
On March 16, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-28-20 requesting that financial institutions implement an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and related evictions arising from the nonpayment of rent or mortgage payments due to a substantial decrease in income or increase in medical expenses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
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