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On October 28, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced: (1) proposed revisions to lenders’ loan-level lender certifications in Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgage transactions; (2) issuance of a revised Defect Taxonomy; (3) execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding False Claims Act (FCA) actions

The Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) is updating its Technology Open to Approved Lenders (“TOTAL”) Mortgage Scorecard in an effort to address excessive risk layering where, for example, FHA mortgage loan applicants have low credit scores and high debt-to-income (“DTI”) ratios. The FHA announced on March 14th that the TOTAL Mortgage Scorecard updates will apply for all mortgages with FHA case numbers assigned on or after March 18, 2019. As a result, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) indicated that lenders should expect to receive an increase in the number of referrals from TOTAL for manual underwriting. While HUD appears to be focused on loans with low credit scores and high DTI ratios, it did not identify the specific changes it will make or the precise combinations of factors that may result in referrals for manual underwriting.

HUD created the FHA TOTAL Mortgage Scorecard as a statistical algorithm to evaluate loan applications and consumer credit using a scoring system that remains constant for all applicants. FHA lenders access TOTAL through an automated underwriting system. Lenders are required to score potential FHA mortgage transactions through TOTAL, except for streamline refinances, home equity conversion mortgages, Title I mortgages, and loans involving borrowers without credit scores.
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Characterized as “protecting veterans from predatory lending,” S.2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, passed by the United States Senate on March 14, 2018. If enacted, the bill would impose material conditions on the eligibility of non-cash-out refinancings for government guaranty under the Veterans Affairs Loan Guaranty Program. While the legislation

For most of 2017, the Trump Administration was quiet with regard to the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) loan program. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) recently offered some relief to lenders and servicers of FHA-insured loans. Through Mortgagee Letter 2017-18, HUD ended its policy of allowing FHA insurance for mortgage loans secured by properties encumbered with Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) obligations. FHA’s new policy prohibiting PACE obligations in connection with FHA-insured loans, which becomes effective for loans with FHA case numbers issued on or after January 7, 2018, reverses Mortgagee Letter 2016-11, a short-lived Obama era policy that permitted lenders to originate FHA-insured loans involving PACE obligations.

PACE loans provide homeowners an alternative to traditional financing for energy efficient home improvements such as solar panels, insulation, water conservation projects, and HVAC systems. Instead of funding the home improvements through loans, the borrower pays through special property tax assessments. PACE financing does not follow the standard review of a borrower’s income, debt, and FICO score, but rather is based on the borrower’s equity in the home and the mortgage or property tax payment history. Many states and municipalities passed legislation implementing a PACE program and establishing their own terms and conditions for PACE loans. Homeowners voluntarily sign up for PACE financing through private companies, which often offer PACE through a network of approved dealers and installers. The PACE loan is secured by a property tax lien, often with terms of up to twenty years, which takes priority over both existing and future mortgages on the property. 
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