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CFPB proposal would apply ATR requirements to PACE financing
On May 1, the CFPB announced a proposed rule which would prescribe ability-to-repay (ATR) rules to residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing and apply TILA’s civil liability provisions for violations. The proposal, required by Section 307 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, would amend Regulation Z to address how TILA applies to PACE transactions to account for the unique nature of PACE loans. PACE loans are designed to finance clean energy improvements on a borrower’s home and are secured by that residence. The Bureau explained that the loans are repaid through a borrower’s property tax payments, which increase over time and which remain with the property even if the borrower sells the property.
If finalized, the proposed rule would require lenders to assess a borrower’s ability to repay a PACE loan and would (i) clarify an existing exclusion to Regulation Z’s definition of credit relating to tax liens and tax assessments to provide that this specific exclusion “applies only to involuntary tax liens and involuntary tax assessments”; (ii) make several adjustments to PACE financing loan estimate and closing disclosure requirements, including providing new model forms specifically designed for PACE transactions, and exempting PACE transactions from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for certain higher-priced mortgage loans and from the requirement to provide periodic statements; (iii) prescribe ATR requirements for residential PACE financing that account for the unique nature of these transactions; (iv) provide that a PACE transaction is not a qualified mortgage; (v) extend TILA Section 130’s ATR requirements and liability provisions to any “PACE company” with substantial involvement in making credit decisions for a PACE transaction; and (vi) clarify how PACE and non-PACE mortgage creditors should consider pre-existing PACE transactions when originating new mortgage loans.
The proposed effective date is at least one year after the final rule is published in the Federal Register (“but no earlier than the October 1 which follows by at least six months Federal Register publication”), with the possibility of a further extension to ensure compliance with a TILA timing requirement. Comments on the proposed rule are due July 26 or 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, whichever is later.
To accompany the proposed rule, the Bureau released several fast facts breaking down and clarifying proposed coverage and the suggested changes. The Bureau also released a data point report documenting research findings on PACE financing in California and Florida from July 2014 through June 2020. Among other things, the report found that PACE loans create an increase in negative credit outcomes for borrowers, particularly with respect to mortgage delinquency. Additionally, PACE borrowers were more likely to have higher interest rates and increased credit card balances and were more likely to live in census tracts with higher percentages of Black and Hispanic residents relative to the average for their states. The report noted that “PACE outcomes improved significantly in California after that State began requiring PACE companies to consider ability to pay before making a loan.”
CFPB seeks comments on mortgage refinance and forbearance standards
On September 27, the CFPB issued a notice in the Federal Register requesting input from the public regarding (i) the availability of refinance loans for borrowers with smaller mortgage loan balances, and (ii) options for mortgage forbearance. Specifically, the Bureau sought ways to: (i) “facilitate mortgage refinances for consumers who would benefit from refinancing, especially consumers with smaller loan balances”; and (ii) “reduce risks for consumers who experience disruptions in their financial situation that could interfere with their ability to remain current on their mortgage payments.” The Bureau also noted that some stakeholders have suggested that changes to the Bureau’s ability-to-repay/qualified mortgage rule (ATR–QM rule) may play a role in facilitating beneficial refinances through targeted and streamlined programs, noting that the current rule references “frictions” in the refinance process tied to QM standards. Comments are due by November 28.
Agencies will not amend qualified residential mortgage definition
Recently, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, FHFA, SEC, and HUD issued an interagency notice stating that no changes will be made to the definition of “qualified residential mortgage” (QRM) under the Credit Risk Retention Regulations. The agencies also left unchanged a community-focused residential mortgage exemption from TILA’s ability-to-pay requirement, after determining that the exemption serves the public interest by making “safe, sustainable loans” available to low-to-moderate-income communities. An exemption for qualifying three-to-four-unit residential mortgage loans was also left unchanged after the agencies determined that the underlying properties “are a source of affordable housing” and, given the number of mortgages collateralized by three-to-four-unit properties, the exemption “does not appear to be spurring any significant speculative activity in the securitization market.”
As part of the Credit Risk Retention Regulations, which were established under Dodd-Frank, federal banking agencies are required to periodically review the QRM definition “to assess developments in the residential mortgage market, including the results of the statutorily required five-year review by the [CFPB] of the ability-to-repay rules and the QM definition.” During their review of the QRM definition, the agencies confirmed that the current QRM definition was “predictive of a lower risk of default” and “did not appear to be a material factor in credit conditions during the review period.”
CFPB releases TILA and CARD Act specifications
On August 20, the CFPB released new technical specifications regarding credit card agreement and data submission compliance requirements under TILA and the CARD Act (Regulation Z). Credit card issuers will utilize the Bureau’s website to submit: (i) Terms of Credit Card Plans (TCCP) Survey data (for the deadline of February 14, 2022); (ii) quarterly credit card agreement submissions (for the deadline of January 31, 2022); and (iii) annual reports connected to college credit card marketing agreements and data (for the deadline of March 31, 2022). According to the announcement, for the most recent TCCP Survey cycle that started on January 31, 83 percent of TCCP Survey submissions were made via the Bureau’s “Collect” website on a voluntary basis, which simplified the Survey submission process in a number of ways, including by minimizing confusing, irrelevant, or duplicative questions and providing an “audit trail” to track submissions. In addition, the Bureau understands Collect to be faster both for issuers and for Bureau processing, which “has led to the faster posting of the TCCP Survey results” and enhances the “public’s ability to use the data in a timely manner.” The Bureau believes that these benefits “would be increased if all TCCP Survey respondents used Collect, and that any additional burden on Survey respondents as a result of using Collect would be minimal.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB released the final rule revising the dollar amounts for provisions implementing the TILA and amendments to TILA, including CARD Act, the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994, and Dodd-Frank’s ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage provisions. The recently released rule took effect upon publication in the Federal Register.
CFPB extends QM compliance to October 2022
On April 27, the CFPB issued a final rule formally extending the mandatory compliance date of the General Qualified Mortgage (QM) final rule to October 1, 2022. As previously covered by InfoBytes, and following a two-year rulemaking, last December the Bureau issued the General QM Final Rule to amend Regulation Z and revise the definition of a “General QM” by eliminating the General QM loan definition’s 43 percent debt-to-income ratio (DTI) limit and replacing it with bright-line price-based thresholds. The General QM Final Rule also eliminated QM status resulting solely from loans qualifying for sale to Fannie or Freddie Mac (GSEs), known as the “GSE Patch.” The General QM Final Rule took effect March 1, 2021, but compliance with the new rule is not mandatory until July 1, 2021; in the intervening period, the original and revised General QM Rule are concurrently effective.
On March 3, the Bureau proposed delaying the mandatory compliance date to provide “greater creditor flexibility and expanded availability of responsible, affordable credit options for some struggling consumers” by keeping both the old and new rule until October 1, 2022. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) By extending the mandatory compliance date, lenders will now have the option of complying with either the revised General QM definition or the original DTI-based General QM definition on applications received on or after March 1, but prior to October 1, 2022. “As the mortgage market navigates an uncertain and challenging time, extending the date by which lenders must comply with the CFPB’s new General QM definition will help provide options and flexibility for both lenders and borrowers,” acting CFPB Director Dave Uejio stated in announcing the official extension.
Delaying the General QM Final Rule’s mandatory compliance date will also provide lenders additional time to use the GSE Patch, the Bureau noted. However, as previously covered by InfoBytes, on April 8 the GSEs announced that—due to preferred stock purchase agreements (PSPA) with the U.S. Department of Treasury, which require that acquired loans meet the General QM Rule’s loan definition that became effective March 1—the GSEs will no longer, in accordance with the dates below, acquire GSE Patch loans that fail to meet the requirements of the revised General QM Rule, which functionally eliminates the utility of the GSE Patch. Specifically, to be eligible for purchase, Fannie Mae (see Lender Letter LL-2021-09) requires these loans to have application dates on or before June 30, 2021, and be purchased as whole loans on or before August 31, 2021, or be in MBS pools with an issue date on or before August 1, 2021. Freddie Mac issued similar requirements (see Bulletin 2021-13) for loans with application received dates on or after July 1, 2021, and all mortgages with settlement dates after August 31, 2021. As a result, unless the GSEs negotiate an additional amendment to their respective PSPA, this extension will have limited utility to the market.
CFPB to address harm created from revocation of payday rule’s ability to repay standard
On March 23, CFPB acting Director Dave Uejio published a blog post highlighting the Bureau’s belief that harms in the small dollar lending market identified by its 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” still exist. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2020, the Bureau issued a final rule revoking certain underwriting provisions of the 2017 final rule, including (i) the provision that makes it an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loans according to their terms; (ii) the prescribed mandatory underwriting requirements for making the ability-to-repay determination; (iii) the “principal step-down exemption” provision for certain covered short-term loans; and (iv) related definitions, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements. Uejio stressed that the Bureau intends to “use the authority provided by Congress to address these harms, including through vigorous market monitoring, supervision, enforcement, and, if appropriate, rulemaking.” Additionally, he noted that the Bureau “continues to believe that ability to repay is an important underwriting standard. To the extent small dollar lenders’ business models continue to rely on consumers’ inability to repay, those practices cause harm that must be addressed by the CFPB.”
CFPB proposes extending General QM Final Rule compliance date
On March 3, the CFPB released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to delay the mandatory compliance date of the General Qualified Mortgage (QM) Final Rule from July 1, 2021 to October 1, 2022. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last December the Bureau issued the General QM Final Rule to amend Regulation Z and revise the definition of a “General QM” by eliminating the General QM loan definition’s 43 percent debt-to-income ratio (DTI) limit and replacing it with bright-line price-based thresholds. The new General QM definition became effective on March 1, 2021. The General QM Final Rule also eliminates QM status resulting solely from loans meeting qualifications for sale to Fannie or Freddie Mac (GSEs), known as the “GSE Patch.” In issuing the NPRM, the Bureau expressed concerns “that the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mortgage market may continue for longer than anticipated at the time the Bureau issued the General QM Final Rule, and so could warrant additional flexibility in the QM market to ensure creditors are able to accommodate struggling consumers.” Extending the compliance date will allow lenders to offer QM loans based on either the old or new QM definitions, including the GSE Patch (unless the GSEs exit conservatorship), until October 1, 2022. Comments on the NPRM must be received by April 5.
The NPRM follows a statement issued last month (covered by InfoBytes here), in which the Bureau said it is considering whether to revisit final rules issued last year that took effect March 1 concerning the definition of a Qualified Mortgage and the establishment of a “Seasoned QM” category of loans. In the NPRM, the Bureau stated “this rulemaking does not reconsider the merits of the price-based approach adopted in the General QM Final Rule. . . . Rather, this proposal addresses the narrower question of whether it would be appropriate in light of the continuing disruptive effects of the pandemic to help facilitate greater creditor flexibility and expanded availability of responsible, affordable credit options for some struggling consumers” by keeping both the old and new rule until October 1, 2022.
CFPB considering compliance delay for QM final rules
On February 23, the CFPB issued a statement noting it is considering whether to revisit final rules issued last year regarding the definition of a Qualified Mortgage and the establishment of a “Seasoned QM” category of loans. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last December the Bureau issued the General QM Final Rule to amend Regulation Z and revise the definition of a “General QM” by eliminating the General QM loan definition’s 43 percent debt-to-income ratio (DTI) limit and replacing it with bright-line price-based thresholds. The General QM Final Rule also eliminates QM status resulting solely from loans meeting qualifications for sale to Fannie or Freddie Mac (GSEs), known as the “GSE Patch.” The Bureau issued a second final rule, the Seasoned QM Final Rule, to create a new category of safe-harbor QMs applicable to first-lien, fixed-rate mortgages that are held in portfolio by the originating creditor or first purchaser for a 36-month period while meeting certain performance requirements, and comply with general QM restrictions on product features and points and fees. The effective date for both final rules is March 1. The General QM Final Rule also has a mandatory compliance date of July 1.
In the statement, the Bureau noted that it is “considering whether to initiate a rulemaking to revisit the Seasoned QM Final Rule,” including whether to revoke or amend the Seasoned QM Final Rule and how that would affect covered transactions for which applications were received after the March 1 effective date. In addition, the Bureau stated that it expects to issue a rule to delay the July 1, 2021 mandatory compliance date of the General QM final rule. Should a proposed rule be finalized, creditors would then “be able to use either the current General QM loan definition or the revised General QM loan definition for applications received during the period from March 1, 2021, until the delayed mandatory compliance date,” the Bureau said. Additionally, the GSE patch would also remain in effect until the new mandatory compliance date, or until the GSEs cease to operate under conservatorship prior to that date.
The same day, the Bureau updated its small entity compliance guide and other compliance aids for the Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgage Rule. The updates reflect amendments set forth in the GSE Patch Extension Final Rule, the General QM Final Rule, and the Seasoned QM Final Rule.
CFPB lets QM cure provision expire
January 10 was the sunset date for the QM Rule’s provision allowing creditors to cure loans that exceed the rule’s limitation on points and fees. For transactions consummated prior to January 10, a creditor could cure any loan exceeding the (generally 3 percent) points and fees limit by refunding to the consumer the excess amount plus interest within 210 days of consummation (assuming the borrower had not notified the creditor of the error or become 60 days past due). The cure provision was originally added by the amendments to the ATR/QM Rule published in November 2014 and was always set to expire on January 10, 2021. The new QM rulemakings issued by the CFPB in December 2020 (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) do not extend it or replace the cure provision.
Special Alert: CFPB redefines Qualified Mortgage; “GSE Patch” to expire
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last week released two final rules further defining what types of loans can be a “qualified mortgage loan” for purposes of the bureau’s Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule (ATR/QM Rule). The General QM Final Rule substantially revamps the general rules defining what constitutes a General QM and removes the existing debt-to-income threshold over which a loan cannot be considered a General QM. The Seasoned QM Final Rule creates a new class of QM that allows certain rebuttable presumption QMs and non-QMs to achieve “safe harbor” QM status three years after origination provided the consumer has strong repayment history.
Importantly, the “GSE Patch,” which provides QM status to loans qualifying for sale to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, expires for applications submitted before July 1, 2021, at which point the General QM Rule will take effect (although compliance with both rules is permitted 60 days after publication in the Federal Register).