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On March 25, the Colorado governor signed SB 46, which amends the definition of an appraisal management companies (AMC) in sections of the Colorado Revised Statutes to align with the definition in federal law. The act, with the exception of section 3, takes effect immediately.
On March 19, the Arkansas governor signed SB 393, which amends the registration requirements for AMCs. Under the act, appraisers must hold a license in good standing in the state. Additionally, AMCs are required to (i) implement systems to verify independent appraisals; (ii) establish processes and controls to ensure engaged appraisers are qualified and independent of the transaction; and (iii) conduct appraisal management services in accordance with specified federal regulations in existence on January 1, 2019. The act takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the legislature.
Finally, on March 14, the North Dakota governor signed SB 2075, which amends the state’s code related to AMCs. The amendments clarify that “an individual who has had an appraiser license or certification in this state or in any other state refused, denied, canceled, revoked, or surrendered” may not own an AMC. The restriction also applies to entities owned by such individuals. The act takes effect on August 1.
On August 12, the CFPB announced a consent order with a nonbank mortgage lender, its affiliated appraisal management company (AMC), and the individual owner of both companies to resolve allegations that the lender deceptively advertised mortgage rates to consumers, improperly charged fees before providing consumers with Good Faith Estimates (GFE), and failed to disclose its affiliation with the AMC while allowing the AMC to charge inflated fees.
As explained in the consent order, the lender primarily conducts business online through its own website, and also advertises its mortgages through display ads on independent websites and the website of an unaffiliated third-party rate publisher. The CFPB asserts that, over a roughly two-year period, a “systemic problem” caused the lender to list on the rate publisher’s website lower rates for certain mortgages than the lender was willing to honor, and that the lender supplied other rates to the rate publisher that were unlikely to be locked for the majority of the lender’s borrowers. The CFPB claims that the lender failed to perform systematic due diligence or quality control to ensure the accuracy of listed rates, even though the lender was made aware through consumer complaints that certain rates were inaccurate.
The CFPB also claims that, over a period of more than two years, the lender advertised in its display ads on independent websites rates that were based on (i) a consumer profile that included an 800 credit score, although most of the lender’s borrowers had scores below 800; and (ii) payment of high discount points, without adequate disclosure of the bases for the rates. In addition, the CFPB asserts that, over a nearly four-year period, the lender generated inaccurate personal loan quotes for certain consumers because the design of the lender’s website prevented those consumers from changing the model’s credit score from 800 to a more applicable lower score. The CFPB asserts these practices violated the Mortgage Advertising and Practices (MAP) Rule by misleading consumers.
The CFPB also alleges that the lender violated RESPA and TILA by overcharging for credit reports and by requiring consumers to schedule and give payment authorization information for appraisals before providing a GFE and receiving indication that the consumers intended to proceed with a loan from the lender, thereby restricting consumers’ ability to shop for alternatives. In addition, the CFPB claims that the lender violated RESPA by failing to properly disclose its affiliate relationship with the AMC and making numerous deceptive statements that led consumers to believe that the lender had no relationship with the AMC and that the AMC’s fees were reasonable third-party fees, and violated the MAP Rule by inflating prices for certain of the AMC’s services, including “appraisal validations.”
According to the CFPB, much of the alleged conduct was directed by, and provided a financial benefit to, the companies’ individual owner.
Redress, Penalties, and Corrective Actions
The consent order requires the lender to pay nearly $14.9 million to the CFPB, which will distribute the funds to consumers who: (i) viewed the lender’s misleading rates on the rate publisher’s website on or after July 21, 2011 and then took out a mortgage with the lender with higher than advertised rates; (ii) received misleading mortgage quotes on the lender’s website based on an inapplicable 800 FICO score on or after July 21, 2011 and then took out a mortgage with the lender at a rate higher than that quoted; (iii) on or after November 1, 2009 paid more than the actual costs of credit reports before the lender provided a GFE; (iv) paid an appraisal fee on or after January 1, 2011 without receiving a proper affiliated business disclosure; and (v) closed loans during or after December 2010 and paid for appraisal review fees.
The order also: (i) requires the lender to pay a $4.5 million penalty; (ii) regulates the way the lender is permitted to advertise interest rates; (iii) mandates numerous other corrective actions related to the alleged activity; and (iv) requires the lender to hire an independent consultant to assess the lender’s advertising and disclosure practices and report to the CFPB’s Enforcement Director.
Under the consent order, the individual owner is jointly and severally liable for the nearly $14.9 million redress judgment, and must pay a $1.5 million civil money penalty.
On April 1, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2014-05, and on March 25, Fannie Mae issued Lender Letter LL-2014-02, in response to directives from the FHFA to clarify certain requirements related to appraisals for properties located in rural areas. In the clarifying documents, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac state that they do not require the use of third-party vendors such as appraisal management companies to order appraisals or to comply with requirements that the mortgage production function and the appraisal ordering and quality assurance functions remain separate. In addition, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide a small lender exception to the separation requirement. The guidance documents also state that a residential property in a market that contains properties or land uses that are non-residential in nature, is not necessarily ineligible for sale to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Both entities assert that they will purchase a mortgage secured by a property that is unique or may not conform to its neighborhood, provided an appraiser is able to evaluate and report on how the characteristics of the market area and unique property features affect the value and the marketability of the subject property. The guidance documents also advise sellers that in areas with less real estate activity, such as rural market areas, appraisers may, with documented support, use comparable sales that are older than 12 months, or that are a considerable distance from the subject property or not similar to the subject property.
On March 24, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, the FDIC, the CFPB, the FHFA, and the NCUA proposed a rule to implement the Dodd-Frank Act’s minimum requirements for registration and supervision of Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs). While current federal regulations mandate that appraisals conducted for federally related transactions must comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), this rule would represent the first affirmative federal obligations relating to the registration, supervision, and conduct of AMCs.
Generally, the proposed rule would establish a framework for the registration and supervision of AMCs by individual states that choose to participate, and for state reporting to the Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC). Although state participation is optional, AMCs would be prohibited from providing appraisal management services for federally related transactions in states that do not establish such a program.
Comments on the proposal will be due 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
Scope of Proposal
The proposal defines an AMC as any person that (i) provides appraisal management services to creditors or secondary mortgage market participants; (ii) provides such services in connection with valuing a consumer’s principal dwelling as security for a consumer credit transaction (including consumer credit transactions incorporated into securitizations); and (iii) within a given year, oversees an appraiser panel of more than 15 state-certified or state-licensed appraisers in a state or 25 or more state-certified or state-licensed appraisers in two or more States. “Appraisal management services” include, among other things, recruiting, selecting, and retaining appraisers and contracting with state-certified or –licensed appraisers to perform appraisal assignments. Notably, the rule would apply to appraisals for any consumer credit transaction secured by the consumer’s principal dwelling, whereas current federal regulations apply only to appraisals for transactions that involve an entity regulated by a federal financial regulatory agency and that require the services of an appraiser (federally related transactions).
The definition of AMC does not cover commercial real estate transactions or securitizations involving commercial real estate mortgages and would not apply to a department or division of an entity when such a department or division provides appraisal management services only to that entity. However, affiliate AMCs would be covered, even if they only provide services to their affiliated entity.
Minimum Requirements for State Supervision Programs
The rule would require participating states to implement, within 36 months after the final rule takes effect, a licensing program within a state agency that has authority to: (i) review and approve or deny an AMC’s application for initial registration; (ii) review and renew or refuse to renew an AMC’s registration periodically; (iii) examine the books and records of an AMC operating in the state and require the AMC to submit reports, information, and documents; (iv) verify that the appraisers on the AMC’s appraiser list, network, panel, or roster hold valid state certifications or licenses, as applicable; (v) conduct investigations of AMCs to assess potential violations of applicable appraisal-related laws, regulations, or orders; (vi) discipline, suspend, terminate, and refuse to renew the registration of an AMC that violates applicable appraisal-related laws, regulations, or orders; and (vii) report an AMC’s violation of applicable appraisal-related laws, regulations, or orders, as well as disciplinary and enforcement actions and other relevant information about an AMC’s operations, to the ASC.
Requirements for AMCs
The rule would require an AMC to register with, and be subject to supervision by, a state appraiser certifying and licensing agency in each state in which the AMC operates. As proposed, an AMC that is a subsidiary owned and controlled by a federally regulated insured depository institution or an insured credit union would be exempt from state registration requirements.
In addition, an all AMCs would be required to (i) use only state-certified or state-licensed appraisers for federally related transactions; (ii) establish processes and controls reasonably designed to ensure that the AMC engages appraisers who have the requisite education, expertise, and experience necessary to complete competently the assignment for the particular market and property type; (iii) establish processes and controls reasonably designed to ensure that the AMC conducts its appraisal management services in accordance with TILA requirements relating to appraisal independence; and (iv) require appraisers to perform appraisal assignments in accordance with USPAP.
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