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Good news from the Government for a change. Yesterday, October 22, 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revised its requirements for lenders submitting Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) loans that have reached 98% of their maximum claim amounts. FHA-approved HECM servicers can now use more easily accessible supporting documentation to get their claims paid faster.

The new requirements were announced in FHA Mortgagee Letter 2018-08. The requirements became effective yesterday, but HUD will accept public comments for a period of 30 calendar days, if you have further suggestions for this beleaguered insurance program.

So what’s all the shouting about? To begin with, HUD will now accept alternative documentation to establish evidence of current hazard insurance. No more hazard insurance declaration pages. Servicers may now provide documentation from the hazard insurance provider so long as it includes pertinent information spelled out in ML 2018-08. In addition, it just got easier to provide evidence of the borrower’s death . While HUD will still accept a copy of the borrower’s death certificate, effective immediately, servicers may now submit an obituary or documentation from a health care institution (if unable to obtain a death certificate). That should speed up the filing process considerably.

The new mortgagee letter also adds a few new requirements.
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On October 17, 2017, in response to an investigation concluding that title insurance companies and agents were spending millions of dollars a year in “marketing costs” provided to attorneys, real estate professionals, and mortgage lenders in the form of meals, gifts, entertainment, free classes, and vacations that ultimately were passed on to consumers through heightened title insurance rates, the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) issued Insurance Regulation 208, in which it identified a non-exhaustive list of prohibited inducements and permissible marketing expenses. The new rule went into effect on February 1 of 2018. Five months later, on July 5th, 2018, the New York State Supreme Court (the state’s trial-level court) annulled the part of the DFS regulation addressing marketing practices, holding that any such rule must be issued by the state legislature, not a regulating agency.
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In a June 21, 2018 opinion, Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the structure of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (“BCFP” or the “Bureau”) is unconstitutional. This ruling is inconsistent with the D.C. Circuit’s en banc decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB (“PHH”).

The case, CFPB v. RD Legal Funding, LLC, involves joint claims brought by the Bureau and the New York State Office of the Attorney General. RD Legal offers cash advances to consumers waiting on payouts from settlement agreements or judgments entered in their favor. The claims allege that the company defrauded 9/11 first responders and NFL retirees by misleading them regarding cash advances that were represented as valid sales but instead were loans made in violation of state usury law.

RD Legal argued that the BCFP’s structure as an independent bureau within the Federal Reserve System violates Article II of the United States Constitution, as the Bureau’s Director can be removed only “for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.” In reviewing that claim, Judge Preska sided with one of the dissenting opinions in PHH. Specifically, she noted that she “disagrees with the holding of the en banc court and instead adopts Sections I-IV of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent…, where, based on considerations of history, liberty, and presidential authority, Judge Kavanaugh concluded that the CFPB ‘is unconstitutionally structured because it is an independent agency that exercises substantial executive power and is headed by a single director.’”
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (the “court”) has issued its long-awaited en banc decision in PHH v. CFPB. In a January 31, 2018 opinion, the court rejected the three-judge panel’s conclusion that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is unconstitutional.  But the en banc court reinstated the

New title insurance regulations in New York restrict the marketing practices of title insurance agencies and affect the operation of affiliated businesses.

The New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) issued two final regulations on October 17, 2017 that follow a DFS investigation into the marketing practices and fees charged by title insurance industry members. The DFS stated that the investigation revealed that members of the title industry spend millions each year in “marketing costs” provided to attorneys, real estate professionals, and mortgage lenders in the form of meals, gifts, entertainment, and vacations and then include those expenses in the calculation of future title insurance rates. The DFS had already implemented emergency regulations to address those practices. The recent final regulations represent permanent guidelines on certain behavior the DFS deems prohibited and permissible under the state’s title insurance statutes.
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Who is responsible for the safety of drinking water?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has suggested – for the second time – that lenders making Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured loans should be held to a higher level of accountability in ensuring that FHA borrowers have a safe and potable water supply. In a report dated September 29, 2017, the OIG’s stated concerns are two-fold: first, HUD may be endorsing loans for properties with water contaminants that affect their occupants’ health; and second, property values may decrease due to water quality issues, thereby posing an increased risk of loss to both HUD and homeowners. The OIG’s solution is for HUD to improve its guidance on safe water requirements as well as to sanction lenders that fail to identify water safety issues for properties known to be affected by water contaminants.
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No AfBA disclosure — no safe harbor!

By Consent Order dated September 27, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took action against Meridian Title Corporation for violating Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 by failing to furnish affiliated business arrangement (AfBA) disclosures to consumers. Meridian, an Indiana title and settlement agent, referred over 7,000 customers to its affiliated title insurer, Arsenal Insurance Corporation, without providing written AfBA disclosures notifying consumers of the entities’ affiliation and consumers’ rights. It also received compensation above and beyond its standard allowable commission set forth in the companies’ agency agreement. Under the Consent Order, Meridian agreed to disclose its affiliation with Arsenal, implement certain compliance measures, and set aside $1.25 million for affected consumers, with any portion of that amount not ultimately provided to consumers to be paid to the CFPB.

As indicated above, the underlying basis for action in this case was Meridian’s failure to provide written AfBA disclosures to consumers it referred to Arsenal. The disclosure requirement is black and white – payments under an AfBA cannot qualify for RESPA’s Section 8(c)(4) exception to the anti-kickback and fee-splitting provisions unless the referring entity provides written disclosures to customers meeting certain form and content requirements. Failure to furnish the disclosures leaves payments between the entities subject to scrutiny to determine whether they constitute payments for referrals or qualify for some other exception,
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a final rule to clarify the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure requirements. The rule finalizes many of the CFPB’s earlier proposals, some with modifications. However, the agency still has not formally addressed important issues (like a lender’s ability to cure errors and the disclosure of title insurance premiums where a simultaneous

The long awaited en banc oral argument in the PHH v. CFPB appeal was heard this morning.  Based upon the questions asked by the judges, and with the caveat that such questioning is not always an indicator of how a court will rule, it seems likely that the D.C. Circuit will not find the CFPB

On January 11, 2017, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published Mortgagee Letter (ML) 2017-03, “Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loan Review System – Implementation and Process Changes.”  The ML indicates that HUD is developing a new Loan Review System (LRS) that will provide an electronic platform for FHA loan-level file reviews and other functions for single family insured mortgages. The new requirements will apply to all FHA Title II Single Family programs, including reverse mortgages.
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