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On March 27, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued guidance on valuation and appraisal practices during the Covid-19 crisis. Effective on March 27 and until modified or rescinded, VA home loan appraisers may utilize exterior-only appraisals and, in certain limited situations, desktop appraisals, for purchase and refinance transactions. When the appraiser does not inspect the interior of the property, additional sources may be used to inform the appraisal, including public records, MLS listing information, and other reliable third-party sources. The VA also issued Exhibit A to the valuation and appraisal practices circular. This document provides a statement of assumptions and limiting conditions and certifications for Desktop-only appraisals, in addition to instructions and a scope of work to be used by the appraiser.
On the same day, the FHA issued similar guidance in Mortgagee Letter 2020-05 regarding appraisals and employment reverifications. Modifications to FHA single-family employment reverifications requirements include allowing verbal employment reverifications. The modifications also remove employment reverification requirements in certain situations, such as when certain criteria are met in forward purchase transactions, including, among other things: (i) where the mortgagee is not aware of loss of employment by the borrower; (ii) the mortgagee has year-to-date paystubs or electronic income verification for the borrower; (iii) the mortgagee has the borrower’s bank statement from immediately prior to the note date showing a direct deposit from an employer; and (iv) the mortgagee has evidence that the borrower has the equivalent of at least two months of the new payment amount, inclusive of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Modifications to appraisal protocols allow for exterior or desktop-only appraisals, and appraisers may utilize additional reliable information. Also, the FHA will require appraisals to include a signed certification that no interior appraisal was performed. FHA model certification forms can be found here and here.
On August 8, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-19-22, which consolidates and clarifies guidance related to Section 309 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, Public Law No. 115-174, and updates guidance regarding loan seasoning requirements based on the “Protecting Affordable Mortgages for Veterans Act of 2019,” Public Law No. 116-33. (Covered by InfoBytes here and here.) The Circular states that 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;
- 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;
- Loan Seasoning. Follow a seasoning requirement for all VA-guaranteed loans. A loan cannot be refinanced until (i) the date on which the borrower has made at least six consecutive monthly payments on the loan being refinanced, and (ii) the date that is 210 days after the first payment due date of the loan being refinanced; and
- Disclosure. Present a comparison of the refinance loan to the original loan within two business days from the initial loan application and again at closing that includes information about the overall cost of refinance. The Circular offers a sample comparison statement in Exhibit C.
On August 1, Ginnie Mae issued All Participants Memorandum APM 19-05 announcing changes to the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) pooling eligibility requirements for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) refinance loans. In order to establish requirements that positively impact the performance of Ginnie Mae securities and implement the “Protecting Affordable Mortgages for Veterans Act of 2019,” (covered by InfoBytes here) APM 19-05 announces changes applicable to all VA-guaranteed refinance loans and establishes new criteria for VA cash-out refinance loans with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios above 90 percent.
Effective with MBS guaranteed on or after August 1, a refinance loan is only eligible for Ginnie Mae securities if the date on the refinance loan is on, or after, the later of (i) “the date on which the borrower has made at least six consecutive monthly payments on the loan being refinanced”; and (ii) “the date that is 210 days after the first payment due date of the loan being refinanced.” Additionally, effective with MBS guaranteed on or after November 1, “High LTV VA Cash-Out Refinance Loans”—defined as a VA refinance loan with a LTV ratio that exceeds 90 percent at the time of origination and where the borrower converts any amount of home equity into cash—are, with certain exceptions, ineligible for Ginnie Mae I Single Issuer Pools and Ginnie Mae II Multiple Issuer Pools.
On August 1, HUD issued Mortgagee Letter 2019-11, which lowers the maximum loan-to-value (LTV) and combined maximum loan-to-value (CLTV) from 85 percent to 80 percent on cash-out refinances for FHA-insured mortgage loans. The letter notes that the total number of cash-out refinance mortgages of FHA-insured mortgage loans has increased 250.47 percent from FY 2013 to FY 2018, and that the FHA therefore has concluded that the reduction in LTV is prudent “in order to strengthen the equity position of cash-out refinances and reduce loss severities in the event of default, [and] stay ahead of any potential future shift in the housing market.” The new LTV is effective for any mortgage loans insured by FHA on or after September 1.
On July 25, President Trump signed the “Protecting Affordable Mortgages for Veterans Act of 2019,” Public Law No. 116-33, which amends the National Housing Act to revise Ginnie Mae loan seasoning requirements for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) housing loans. Section 306(g)(1) now requires that, in order to be eligible for Ginnie Mae securities, the date of the VA refinance loan must be the later of (i) “the date on which the borrower has made at least six consecutive monthly payments on the loan being refinanced; and” (ii) “the date that is 210 days after the first payment due date of the loan being refinanced.” The amendment is effective immediately.
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.
On February 14, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released Circular 26-19-05 (and on February 15, accompanying Change Circular 26-19-05) to clarify the VA’s interim final rule regarding VA-guaranteed cash-out refinancing loans, which was released in December 2018 and became effective on February 15. The interim final rule was previously covered by InfoBytes. Among other things, the Circular provides clarification regarding (i) the Net Tangible Benefit test; (ii) the contents of the loan comparison and home equity disclosures (including sample 3-day and final loan closing disclosures); (iii) the loan seasoning requirements, including a new obligation that, for loans refinanced within 1 year of the original closing date, lenders obtain a payment history/ledger documentating all payments, unless a credit bureau supplement clearly identifies all payments made in that timeframe; and (iv) the manner by which lenders should calculate fee recoupment.
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 17, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published an interim final rule in the Federal Register to amend its rules on VA-guaranteed or insured cash-out refinance loans as required by Section 309 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (codified as 38 U.S.C. § 3709). (See also, VA Circular 26-18-30 and accompanying revision for a summary of the rule.) The interim final rule, which revises the current regulation, 38 CFR 36.4306, bifurcates cash-out refinance loans into two types, (i) Type I, the loan being refinanced is already guaranteed or insured by VA and the new loan amount is equal to or less than the payoff amount of the loan being refinanced; and (ii) Type II, cash-outs in which the amount of the principal for the new loan is larger than the payoff amount of the refinanced loan. Under the interim rule, for both Type I and Type II, the VA will permit a cash-out refinance provided:
- Reasonable Value. The new loan may not exceed an amount equal to 100 percent of the reasonable value of the dwelling or farm residence that secures the loan.
- Funding Fee. The funding fee may be financed in the new loan amount; however, any portion of the funding fee that would cause the new loan amount to exceed 100 percent of the reasonable value of the property must be paid in cash at the loan closing.
- Net Tangible Benefit. The loan must provide a net tangible benefit to the borrower, which can be satisfied in one of eight ways (i) the new loan eliminates monthly mortgage insurance, whether public or private, or monthly guaranty insurance; (ii) the term of the new loan is shorter; (iii) the interest rate on the new loan is lower; (iv) the payment on the new loan is lower; (v) the new loan results in an increase in the borrower’s residual monthly income; (vi) the new loan refinances an interim loan to construct, alter, or repair the home; (vii) the new loan amount is equal to or less than 90 percent of the reasonable value of the home; or (viii) the new loan refinances an adjustable rate loan to a fixed rate loan.
- Disclosure. The lender must provide the borrower, and the borrower must certify, net tangible benefit information, a loan comparison disclosure, and an estimate of the amount of home equity removed from the refinance, in a standardized format, on two separate occasions (not later than 3 business days from the date of application and again at closing).
- Other. As required by the current regulation, any borrower paid discount must be considered reasonable in accordance with § 36.4313(d)(7)(i) and the loan must also otherwise be eligible for the VA guarantee.
For Type I cash-out refinances, the VA also requires (i) all the fees and incurred costs to be scheduled to be recouped within 36 months after the date of loan issuance; (ii) a loan seasoning period of the later date of 210 days after the date of the first payment made and the date the sixth monthly payment is made on the loan; and (iii) under the net tangible benefit requirement, for a fixed interest rate to a fixed interest rate, the rate must be reduced by 50 basis points and for a fixed to adjustable interest rate, the rate must be reduced by 200 basis points.
For Type II cash-out refinances, if the loan being refinanced is a VA loan, the same loan seasoning requirement applies (the later date of 210 days after the date of the first payment made and the date the sixth monthly payment is made on the loan). There are no additional restrictions on fee recoupment or rate reductions.
The interim final rule takes effect February 15, 2019, with comments due on or before the effective date.
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.
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "The international compliance situation and new challenges" at the World Compliance Association Covid Compliance Conference
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Understanding OFAC sanctions" at a NAFCU webinar
- Garylene D. Javier to discuss "Navigating workplace culture in 2020" at the DC Bar Conference