Special Alert: CFPB Proposes Additional Changes to Mortgage Rules

Posted on June 26th, 2013 in Federal Issues, Mortgages, Special Alerts By BuckleySandler

On June 24, 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued another set of proposed amendments to its January 2013 mortgage rules. Whereas the proposed and final amendments issued by the CFPB in April and May focused largely on the Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage rule, this proposal primarily addresses several important questions that have emerged during the implementation process regarding the Mortgage Servicing and Loan Originator Compensation rules.

Even with this additional guidance from the CFPB, the volume and complexity of the new requirements and the number of outstanding issues still present a daunting task for many industry participants as they seek to implement the numerous rules by January 2014.

Comments on the proposed amendments are due July 22, 2013.

Key Proposed Amendments

Mortgage Servicing

Start of Foreclosure Process. The current rule prohibits a servicer from making the first notice or filing required for foreclosure unless the loan is more than 120 days delinquent. The proposed rule would clarify what servicer actions are prohibited during the first 120 days of delinquency. In short, the CFPB is proposing to adopt the literal meaning of “first notice or filing required by applicable law” and prohibit servicers from filing any document that “would be used by the servicer as evidence of compliance with foreclosure practices required pursuant to State law” during the 120-day period. Thus, a breach letter required by Fannie Mae or any other debt collection activity should not be prohibited during the 120-day pre-foreclosure period provided such documents are not to be used as evidence of complying with requirements applicable to state law foreclosure processes.

This interpretation is expected to have significant implications for state foreclosure processes, particularly those states with pre-foreclosure mediation requirements and right to cure notices. For example, a notice of default in the District of Columbia may not be mailed to borrowers until after the 120-day pre-foreclosure period because the District of Columbia marks the notice of default as the “first notice or filing required by applicable law.”  Similarly, servicers in California and other states with pending or effective “Homeowners Bill of Rights” statutes (e.g., Alabama, Florida, Nevada, and Utah) may not fulfill those statutes’ requirements to contact or provide borrowers with information regarding servicemember protections or foreclosure alternatives until after the pre-foreclosure period. In addition, it would appear that servicers in Massachusetts would have to wait 120 days before mailing borrowers a 150-day notice of right to cure, which would mean that a servicer may not begin the foreclosure process until 270 days after delinquency begins. By contrast, because Kentucky does not have additional pre-foreclosure statutory requirements, servicers would need only to wait the CFPB’s minimum period of 120 days of delinquency to file a foreclosure complaint in Kentucky.

Incomplete Loss Mitigation Applications. The current rule requires servicers to review a borrower’s loss mitigation application within five business days and provide a notice informing the borrower that the application is either: (1) complete; or (2) identifying the specific information needed to complete the application and stating that the borrower should provide that information by the earliest of four specific dates. The current rule also generally prohibits a servicer from offering a loss mitigation option based on an incomplete application.

The proposed amendments would:

  • Allow servicers who initially describe an application as complete based on the five-day review to request additional information in some circumstances;
  • Allow servicers to select a “reasonable date” by which an incomplete application should be completed; and
  • Allow servicers to offer a borrower the option of a short-term forbearance program (i.e., forbearance of payments for up to two months) even if the application is not complete, subject to certain requirements.

Notice of Denial. The proposed amendments would clarify that, when notifying a borrower that he or she has been denied for a loss mitigation option, the servicer need only disclose the actual reasons for the denial and not other potential reasons.

Loan Originator Compensation

Effective Date. The CFPB proposed to modify the effective date for portions of this rule. Specifically, the proposed rule would: (1) move the effective date for most provisions forward from January 10, 2014 to January 1, 2014; and (2) generally apply the revised restrictions on compensation to transactions consummated and for which the employer paid compensation on or after January 1, 2014.  These revisions are intended to permit employers of loan originators to make changes to their compensation, registration, licensing, and training practices at the start of the calendar year.

Definition of Loan Originator. The proposed amendments would provide a number of clarifications about who is and is not covered by the rule. In particular, the CFPB would clarify that employees of a creditor or loan originator in certain administrative or clerical roles (such as tellers or greeters) do not become loan originators solely by providing an application form or discussing general credit terms with consumers (e.g., “We offer rates as low as 3% to qualified consumers.”). Instead, to be a loan originator, the employee would need to discuss particular credit terms that are or may be available from the creditor to that consumer selected based on the consumer’s financial characteristics.

Other Rules

Points and Fees for Qualified Mortgages and High-Cost Mortgages. The proposed amendments would clarify the treatment of: (1) charges paid by parties other than the consumer – in particular, the amendments make clear that seller’s points and charges paid by the creditor are excluded from the finance charge component of points and fees; and (2) loan originator compensation to retailers of manufactured homes and their employees.

Rural and Underserved Areas. The proposed amendments would revise the exceptions available to small creditors (creditors with no more than $2 billion in assets that, along with affiliates, originate no more than 500 first-lien mortgages covered under the ability-to-repay rules per year) operating in predominantly “rural” or “underserved” areas while, as announced in May, the CFPB re-examines the underlying definitions of “rural” or “underserved” over the next two years. Specifically, the CFPB would allow all small creditors, regardless of whether they operate predominantly in “rural” or “underserved” areas, to continue originating balloon high-cost mortgages if the loans meet the requirements for balloon qualified mortgages. In addition, the CFPB would allow more small creditors to take advantage of the exemption from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for higher-priced mortgage loans.

Prohibition on Financing Credit Insurance. For purposes of the prohibition on financing credit insurance premiums in connection with certain consumer credit transactions secured by a dwelling, the proposed amendments would clarify what constitutes financing of premiums by a creditor and, for purposes of the statutory exclusion for certain credit insurance premium calculation and payment arrangements, when credit insurance premiums are considered to be calculated and paid on a monthly basis.

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