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On June 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit stated that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) can continue non-judicial foreclosures in states that permit them, holding that the GSEs are not “government actors” despite being controlled by FHFA. According to the opinion, the plaintiffs obtained mortgages that were later sold to Fannie Mae. After the borrowers defaulted on their loans, Fannie Mae, consistent with Rhode Island law, conducted non-judicial foreclosure sales of the properties. The plaintiffs filed suit, arguing that Fannie Mae and FHFA (which acts as Fannie Mae’s conservator) are government actors and that the nonjudicial foreclosure sales violated their Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights. The district court disagreed, however, and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss on the grounds that “because FHFA stepped into Fannie Mae’s shoes as its conservator and its ability to foreclose was a ‘contractual right inherited from Fannie Mae by virtue of its conservatorship,’ FHFA was not acting as the government when it foreclosed on the plaintiffs’ mortgages and was not subject to the plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claims.” The court further determined that FHFA’s conservatorship over Fannie Mae did not make Fannie Mae a government actor subject to the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims because FHFA “does not exercise sufficient control” over the GSE. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing, among other things, that the FHFA’s nearly 13-year conservatorship of the GSEs makes its control permanent and renders them governmental actors.
On appeal, the appellate court concluded that in its role as conservator, “FHFA is not a government actor because it has ‘stepped into the shoes’ of the private GSEs” and assumed all of their private contractual rights, including the right to perform non-judicial foreclosures. The appellate court also refuted the plaintiffs’ argument that FHFA’s 13-year conservatorship made its control permanent, pointing out that the “housing and mortgage financial markets are highly complex, as are the various indicators of their financial health, so the fact that FHFA has maintained the conservatorship for almost thirteen years does not mean that the government’s control is permanent.” As such, because the GSEs are not government actors they are also not subject to the plaintiffs’ due process claims, the appellate court concluded.
On June 2, the CFPB released new FAQs regarding the Mortgage Servicing Rule and Regulation X and Regulation Z relating to escrow account guidance and analysis. General highlights from the FAQs are listed below:
- Regulation X provides that (i) an escrow account is any account established or controlled by a servicer for a borrower to pay taxes or other charges associated with a federally related mortgage loan, including charges that the servicer and borrower agreed to have the servicer collect and pay; and (ii) the computation year for an escrow account is a 12-month period that the servicer establishes for the account, starting with the borrower’s first payment date and including each subsequent 12-month period, unless the servicer issues a short year statement.
- Servicers must send the borrower an annual escrow account statement “within 30 days of the completion of the escrow account computation year.”
- Disbursement date is defined as “the date the servicer pays an escrow item from the escrow account.”
- “The initial escrow statement is the first disclosure statement that the servicer delivers to the borrower concerning the borrower’s escrow account,” and must include: (i) “the amount of the monthly mortgage payment”; (ii) “the portion of the monthly payment going into the escrow account”; (iii) “itemized anticipated disbursements to be paid from the escrow account”; (iv) “anticipated disbursement dates”; (v) “the amount the servicer elects as a cushion”; and (vi) “trial running balance for the account.”
- The annual escrow statement must include, among other things, “an account history that reflects the activity in the escrow account during the prior escrow account computation year and a projection of the activity in the account for the next escrow account computation year.”
- An escrow account analysis is the accounting a servicer conducts in the form of a trial running balance for an escrow account to: (i) “determine the appropriate target balances”; (ii) “compute the borrower’s monthly payments for the next escrow account computation year and any deposits needed to establish or maintain the account”; and (iii) “determine whether a shortage, surplus, or deficiency exists.”
- “If there is a shortage that is equal to or more than one month’s escrow account payment, the servicer may accept an unsolicited lump sum repayment to resolve the shortage. However, the servicer cannot require or provide the option of a lump sum payment on the annual escrow account statement. In addition, Regulation X does not govern whether borrowers can freely pay the servicer to satisfy an escrow account shortage. Therefore, “the acceptance of a voluntary, unsolicited payment made by the borrower to the servicer to satisfy an escrow account shortage is not a violation of Regulation X.”
- Servicers may inform borrowers that borrowers “may voluntarily provide a lump sum payment to satisfy an escrow shortage if they choose to” if “the communication is not in the annual escrow account statement itself and does not appear to indicate that a lump sum payment is something that the servicer requires but rather is an entirely voluntary option.”
On June 3, the CFPB published correcting amendments to its Official Interpretations to Regulation Z (TILA) that were not part of the final rule published in February, which exempts certain insured depository institutions and credit unions from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for certain higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs). As previously covered by InfoBytes, under the final rule, any loan made by an insured depository institution or credit union that is secured by a first lien on the principal dwelling of a consumer would be exempt from Regulation Z’s HPML escrow requirement if (i) the institution has assets of no more than $10 billion; (ii) “the institution and its affiliates originated 1,000 or fewer loans secured by a first lien on a principal dwelling during the preceding calendar year”; and (iii) the institution meets certain existing HPML escrow exemption criteria.
The amendments add one comment to the CFPB’s commentary that was not incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations “due to an omission in an amendatory instruction,” and revise a second comment that inadvertently did not appear in the final rule. The amendments to the commentary relate to (i) Regulation Z section 1026.35(b)(2)(vi)(B), which covers requirements for escrow exemptions for HPMLs; and (ii) Regulation Z section 1026.43(f)(1)(vi), which addresses the exemption associated with balloon-payment qualified mortgages made by certain creditors under the minimum standards for transactions secured by a dwelling. The corrections took effect June 3.
On May 28, the Hawaii Supreme Court vacated summary judgment in favor of a national bank, ruling that the “bank seeking to foreclose on a mortgage and note” did not meet its “burden of establishing that the borrower defaulted under the terms of the agreements.” The bank sought a judicial foreclosure of the borrower’s residence and submitted a ledger in order to prove the borrower had defaulted. However, the state’s Supreme Court determined that the Intermediate Court of Appeals erred in affirming the lower court’s order because the bank failed to explain how to read the entries. According to the Supreme Court, the ledger was “ambiguous” and presented “genuine issues of material fact” as to whether the bank was entitled to bill the borrower for lender-placed insurance and whether the borrower “actually owed the amounts that forced her into the alleged default” when the bank “apparently redirected her payments to cover the cost of lender-placed insurance.”
On June 7, Freddie Mac announced a new cap, or limit, on the purchase of certain single-family mortgages secured by investment properties and second homes to 7 percent of total single-family mortgage acquisitions. For July, Freddie Mac updated the requirements for investment property and second home mortgages to state that if a seller sells more than five mortgages secured by second homes and/or investment properties, the seller’s delivery of such mortgages may not, by the measure of the aggregate unpaid principal balance (UPB) of a mortgage, exceed 6.5 percent “of the total UPB for all [m]ortgages sold during that month.” After July, the cap will be set at 6 percent. The announcement also noted that the cap “is intended to be temporary” and may be revised as needed.
On June 1, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied a national bank’s motion to dismiss claims that its allegedly discriminatory mortgage lending practices violated the Fair Housing Act. According to a complaint filed by the County of Cook in Illinois (County), the increase in foreclosures during the relevant time period were proximately caused by the bank’s mortgage practices, and caused the County to incur financial injury, including foreclosure-related and judicial proceeding costs and municipal expenses due to an increase in vacant properties. The bank filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that that the County did not have standing to sue because “the judicial proceedings and other activities associated with the additional foreclosures” actually “yielded a net benefit to the County.” The court disagreed, ruling that all the County had to do was show a reasonable argument that the bank’s lending practices resulted in foreclosures. The bank “does not dispute that the County has properly alleged in its complaint a financial injury sufficient, at least at the pleading stage, to support standing,” the court wrote.
On May 27, the New Hampshire governor signed HB 312, which clarifies certain deadlines and provisions in consumer credit applications and licensing requirements for mortgage loan originators. Among other things, HB 312 states that company licensees or persons must “deliver to the commissioner a list of all New Hampshire consumers who have contracted with the licensee or with whom the licensee is otherwise engaged in business regulated under this chapter, and other requested lists summarizing the business of the licensee, within 7 days of receipt of the request” or be subject to a $50 fine per day for each day. The bill further stipulates that a “license shall not be issued and effective unless the applicant or licensee is licensed or registered in the state where its principal office is located.” This provision modifies the previous requirements, in that it is now only applicable to nondepository mortgage bankers, brokers, and servicers, but no longer applies to mortgage loan originators. Additional provisions address, among other things, “examinations of family trust companies, delegation by credit union boards to committees, qualifications of the banking commissioner, and authorizing depository banks to elect benefit corporation status.” The act takes effect 60 days after its passage.
On May 28, the FDIC released a list of administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in March. During the month, the FDIC issued 10 orders consisting of “two Orders to Pay Civil Money Penalties, one Section 19 Application, one Order Terminating Consent Order, and one Order of Prohibition from Further Participation.” Among the orders is a civil money penalty imposed against a Washington-based bank related to alleged violations of the Flood Disaster Protection Act (FDPA) for “failing to obtain adequate flood insurance on buildings and/or the buildings’ contents securing designated loans at the time the Bank made, increased, extended, or renewed the loans.” The order requires the payment of a $17,000 civil money penalty.
The FDIC also imposed a civil money penalty against a California-based bank related to alleged violations of the FDPA. Among other things, the FDIC claims that the bank (i) failed to notify the borrower to obtain flood insurance; and (ii) failed to purchase flood insurance on the borrower’s behalf. The order requires the payment of a $281,000 civil money penalty.
On May 28, FHA announced the publication of Mortgagee Letter (ML) 2021-12, which clarifies the eligibility of FHA-insured financing for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and amends employment documentation requirements for citizens of the Freely Associated States and individuals with H-1B status. ML 2021-12 also updates requirements for certain non-permanent residents seeking to obtain insured mortgage financing under FHA’s Single Family Title I and Title II forward mortgage insurance programs. FHA notes that while the guidance may be implemented immediately, it must be implemented for mortgages with case numbers assigned on or after July 26, 2021.
On May 27, the CFPB released a report providing insights into manufactured housing financing, which is a source of lending for millions of manufactured housing homeowners. The report utilizes new information about manufactured housing that was added in 2018 to the list of HMDA data. The report also examines the differences between mortgage loans for site-built homes, mortgage loans for manufactured homes, and chattel loans for manufactured homes. The report found, among other things: (i) about 42 percent of manufactured home purchase loans are “chattel” loans, which are secured by the home but not the land; (ii) about 70 percent of the time, homeowners seeking a loan on a site-built home are approved, but about 30 percent of manufactured home loan applications are approved; (iii) the top five lenders account for over 40 percent of manufactured housing purchase loans and nearly 75 percent of chattel lending; and (iv) Hispanic, Black and African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, and elderly borrowers “are more likely than other consumers to take out chattel loans, even after controlling for land ownership.” The report also pointed out that “compared to mortgages for site-built homes, manufactured homes mortgages tend to have smaller loan amounts, higher interest rates, fewer refinances, and less of a secondary market, patterns that are even more acute for chattel loans.”