Mortgage Loan Servicing

On April 6, 2022, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will require servicers to suspend foreclosure activities for up to 60 days if the servicer has been notified that a borrower has applied for assistance from the Homeowner Assistance Fund (“HAF”). HAF was established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and the program is designed to distribute funds to states, tribes, and territories to help homeowners who have been financially impacted by the pandemic with housing-related costs. For example, among other uses, the funds may be used to reduce mortgage principal or pay arrearages so that homeowners can qualify for affordable loan modifications. The specific HAF programs available to borrowers and the required application procedures depend on the borrowers’ state or territory.

Many COVID-related borrower protections expired in 2021, including federal foreclosure moratoriums and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB” or “Bureau”) temporary Regulation X restrictions on foreclosure initiations. However, the CFPB estimated that, as of March 1, 2022, over 700,000 borrowers remain in forbearances and are at risk of foreclosure. According to FHFA Acting Director Sandra L. Thompson, FHFA’s foreclosure suspension for borrowers who applied for HAF “will provide borrowers who need temporary mortgage assistance with additional time to be evaluated for relief through their state’s approved Homeownership Assistance Fund.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have issued guidance providing that servicers of loans sold to either entity must delay initiating any judicial or non-judicial foreclosure process, moving for a foreclosure judgment or order of sale, or executing a foreclosure sale for up to 60 days if the following criteria are met:
Continue Reading FHFA Suspends Foreclosure for Borrowers Applying for HAF Assistance

Mortgage loan servicers have a wide range of responsibilities. However, does everything servicers do constitute “servicing”? Or do servicers do some things that are not “servicing”?

The answer is important because the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and its Regulation X impose strict obligations on servicers to respond to certain borrower communications related to “servicing,” but not to nonservicing. The courts, including two recent federal courts of appeals, are drawing fine lines between the two.

RESPA requires a mortgage loan servicer to respond in a timely manner to a borrower’s request to correct errors relating to “allocation of payments, final balances for purposes of paying off the loan, or avoiding foreclosure, or other standard servicer’s duties.” Section 1024.35 of Regulation X specifies that a servicer must acknowledge, investigate, and respond to a borrower’s “notice of error” within strict timeframes, so long as the notice is in writing and provides enough information for the servicer to identify the account and the asserted error. In addition, after receipt of a notice of error, a servicer is prohibited, for 60 days, from furnishing adverse information to a consumer reporting agency regarding any payment that is the subject of the notice.

Section 1024.35 then provides a list of covered errors that are subject to those requirements. The list includes errors that could arise in typical servicing activities – errors related to the acceptance, application, or crediting of borrower payments; and to disbursing amounts for taxes, insurance premiums, or other charges. The list of covered errors also includes those that could arise in default servicing – errors related to providing information regarding loss mitigation options, making foreclosure notices or filings, moving for foreclosure judgments or orders of sale, or conducting foreclosure sales.

Then, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) included a catch-all provision to section 1024.35, such that a covered error includes “any other error relating to the servicing of a borrower’s mortgage loan.”

Courts have been considering the scope of those responsibilities since even before the CFPB issued that list in 2013. Recently, two circuit courts of appeals have indicated that some activities of servicers do not constitute “servicing,” particularly where loan modifications are involved.
Continue Reading Mortgage Servicing “Notices of Error” – Does The Catch-All Catch It All?

Earlier this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released the Fall 2021 edition of its Supervisory Highlights (“Supervisory Highlights” or “Report”). This marks the first edition issued under Director Rohit Chopra, President Biden’s pick to head the agency. The press release accompanying this edition of Supervisory Highlights cites “wide-ranging violations of law” and asserts that “irresponsible or mismanaged firms harmed Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic,” statements that signal that the Chopra-led Bureau is taking an aggressive approach to supervision and is scrutinizing supervised entities closely.

Supervisory Observations

This edition of Supervisory Highlights covers examinations completed between January 2021 and June 2021 and identifies violations in eight areas: credit card account management, debt collection, deposits, fair lending, mortgage servicing, payday lending, prepaid accounts, and remittance transfers. As is the Bureau’s common practice, the Report refers to institutions in the plural even if the related findings pertain to only a single institution.

  • Credit Card Account Management. The Report details several findings related to credit cards, including violations of Regulation Z and the prohibition against unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices (“UDAAPs”). With respect to Regulation Z, Bureau examiners determined that creditors failed to comply with requirements related to billing errors. Specifically, the Bureau details alleged failures concerning the timing of resolving notices of billing errors (within two complete billing cycles), reimbursing late fees when payment had not been credited to an account, and conducting reasonable investigations based on consumer allegations of missing payments and unauthorized transactions. The Report indicates that creditors are working to identify and remediate affected customers and develop training on Regulation Z’s billing error resolution requirements for employees.

The Bureau also alleged deceptive practices relating to the marketing of credit card bonus offers in two separate instances. First, examiners determined that credit card issuers engaged in deceptive acts by failing to provide advertised bonuses to existing customers who satisfied the bonus program requirements of opening a new account and meeting the spending requirements. Moreover, the Bureau noted that issuers failed to ensure employees followed procedures to enroll existing consumers correctly. Second, the examiners determined that issuers also engaged in deceptive acts when their advertising to consumers failed to disclose or adequately disclose material information about qualifying for the bonus. In this situation, the bonus was tied to applying for the card online, so consumers who otherwise satisfied advertised requirements, but applied through a different channel, did not receive the bonus. In response to these findings, issuers are modifying applicable advertisements and undertaking remedial and corrective actions.

  • Debt Collection. According to the Report, examiners found that larger participant debt collectors were at risk of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) as it relates to using false representations or deceptive means to collect a debt. The Report explained that debt collectors, in the context of discussing the consumer restarting a payment plan, represented that making the final payment of the plan would improve the consumer’s creditworthiness. The Bureau, however, indicated that this could lead the least sophisticated consumer to assume that deleting derogatory information would result in improved creditworthiness, when in fact numerous factors influence a consumer’s creditworthiness and making a final payment may not necessarily improve a person’s credit score. As a result of the findings, the debt collectors revised their FDCPA policies and procedures and enhanced their training and monitoring systems.


Continue Reading First CFPB Supervisory Highlights Issued Under Director Chopra Cites “Wide-Ranging Violations of Law”

On August 10, 2021, the CFPB’s Office of Supervision Policy published a report titled Mortgage Servicing COVID-19 Pandemic Response Metrics: Observations from Data Reported by Sixteen Servicers (“Servicing Metrics Report”).  Although the Servicing Metrics Report doesn’t allege any compliance deficiencies in the servicers’ performance, the topics addressed in the report and the CFPB’s accompanying press release indicate areas of focus for the CFPB, and servicers should take note.

Continue Reading CFPB Report on Servicers’ COVID-19 Response Signals Enforcement Priorities

Businesses that place phone calls or send text messages to consumers may find some relief in a recent United States Supreme Court decision that limits the applicability of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). The TCPA prohibits any person from placing phone calls (including text messages) to a wireless number using an automated telephone dialing

With President Joe Biden’s inauguration as the Nation’s 46th President, change is coming to Washington. And that change will be felt quickly and acutely at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). At President Biden’s request, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger submitted her resignation on Wednesday, clearing the way for the President to appoint current FTC Commissioner and former CFPB official Rohit Chopra as the next Director of the agency. Given the CFPB’s single Director structure, the new Director will have significant opportunities to shape the direction of the CFPB over the next four years. Below we address what we can expect to see from CFPB under the new administration.
Continue Reading A New Day Dawns at the CFPB

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued two relatively welcome surprises yesterday. First, along with ditching a debt-to-income ratio (“DTI”) ceiling, the agency expanded its proposed general Qualified Mortgage (“QM”) to include loans up to 2.25 percentage points over the average prime offer rate. Mortgage lenders can opt in to the new QM as early as 60 days after the rule is published (so, likely by late February 2021), although compliance becomes mandatory July 1, 2021. Second, the CFPB will begin allowing loans to season into a QM after 36 months of timely payments, so long as the loan is not sold more than once (and is not securitized) during that time.

The CFPB otherwise recently issued a separate final rule, confirming once and for all that the GSE Patch – a temporary QM category for loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac – would expire on the mandatory compliance date of the agency’s rule revising the general QM definition. Since 2014, in general terms, a closed-end residential mortgage loan could only constitute a QM if the borrower’s DTI did not exceed 43%, or if the loan were GSE-eligible. As the GSE Patch’s expiration date (January 10, 2021) loomed, the CFPB promised to rethink the 43% DTI requirement and provide for a smooth and orderly transition to a post-Patch QM. In considering the public comments it received, the CFPB decided to loosen up on a couple of its proposals.

Specifically, the new general QM and its compliance protection will apply, under the final rule, to a covered transaction with the following characteristics:

  • The loan has an annual percentage rate (“APR”) that does not exceed the average prime offer rate (“APOR”) by 2.25 or more percentage points;
  • The loan meets the existing QM product feature and underwriting requirements and limits on points and fees;
  • The creditor has considered the consumer’s current or reasonably expected income or assets, debt obligations, alimony, child support, and DTI ratio or residual income; and
  • The creditor has verified the consumer’s current or reasonably expected income or assets, debt obligations, alimony, and child support.

The final rule removes the 43% DTI threshold and the troublesome Appendix Q.
Continue Reading CFPB Issues New QM Definition and Seasoning Provisions

Should US state nonbank mortgage servicers be subject to “safety and soundness” standards of the type imposed by federal law on insured depository institutions, even though the nonbanks do not solicit and hold customer funds in federally insured deposit accounts or pose a direct risk of a government bailout? Well, state mortgage banking regulators think

The California legislature ended its legislative session late on Monday, August 31, 2020, by passing two significant bills that will be of interest to the state’s mortgage servicers and other licensees—AB 3088 and AB 1864.

AB 3088 imposes new forbearance-related requirements on mortgage servicers related to the COVID-19 pandemic (in addition to significant protections for tenants in California beyond the scope of this summary). AB 1864 renames, reorganizes, and grants new authority to California’s primary financial services regulator to create a “mini-CFPB”—although many licensees are exempt from the new authority. Governor Newsom has signed AB 3088 into law, which took effect immediately as an urgency measure, and is expected to follow suit with AB 1864 in the near future.

Below we summarize those provisions from the bills that are particularly relevant to California mortgage licensees and federal- and state-chartered depository institutions servicing mortgage loans in California.
Continue Reading California Enacts Two Bills with Significant Impacts on Mortgage Licensees in the State

Earlier this week the CFPB released an interim final rule that allows mortgage servicers flexibility to offer additional short-term loss mitigation options to borrowers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The mortgage servicing rules include many requirements for the servicing of mortgage loans in default, including limitations on the types of loss mitigation that may be offered in certain instances.  The unique challenges facing servicers and borrowers in the wake of the pandemic, as well as the unique loss mitigation options being announced by federal housing agencies designed to assist borrowers negatively impacted by COVID-19 that do not fit neatly into the CFPB’s existing servicing requirements, have prompted the CFPB to amend those rules to provide servicers with additional flexibility.
Continue Reading CFPB Provides Relief to Servicers Offering Loss Mitigation in Wake of Pandemic