On April 26, Indiana enacted SB 238, which increases the maximum credit service charge for a consumer credit sale other than one involving a revolving charge account and the maximum finance charge for a supervised loan. Effective July 1, 2013, the bill increases the applicable amounts financed, which are subject to the graduated service charge or loan finance charge percentage, and increases the service charge or loan finance charge percentage that applies if the graduated percentages do not apply. For consumer loans other than supervised loans, the bill increases the permitted loan finance charge from 21% to 25%, provides that the lender may contract for and receive a loan origination fee of not more than 2% of the loan amount (or line of credit, for a revolving loan) in the case of a loan secured by an interest in land, or $50 in the case of a loan not secured by an interest in land. For supervised loans, the bill provides that the lender may contract for and receive a loan origination fee of not more than $50. For both supervised loans and consumer loans other than supervised loans, (i) the permitted minimum loan finance charge may be imposed only if the lender does not assess a loan origination fee, and (ii) in the case of a loan not secured by an interest in land, if a lender retains any part of a loan origination fee charged on a loan that is paid in full by a new loan from the same lender, certain other restrictions apply.
On June 10, Florida enacted SB 282, which amends the Florida Consumer Finance Act to increase by $1,000 the tiered principal amounts subject to maximum allowable interest rates. For loans entered after July 1, 2013, lenders can charge for certain consumer loans up to 30 percent interest on the first $3,000, up to 24 percent on $3,001 to $4,000, and up to 18 percent over $4,000. The bill also increases from $10 to $15 the maximum amount that lenders can charge for payments at least 10 days delinquent.
California Supreme Court Overturns Long-standing Rule Limiting Fraud Exception to Parol Evidence Rule
On January 14, the California Supreme Court overturned a long-standing state limitation on the fraud exception to the parol evidence rule. Riverisland Cold Storage, Inc. v. Fresno-Madera Prod. Credit Assoc., No. S190581, 2013 WL 141731 (Cal. Jan. 14, 2013). Generally, the parol evidence rule limits the use of evidence outside a contract itself to contradict or add to the terms of the contract. The exception allows a party to present extrinsic evidence to support a claim of fraud. In California, the Supreme Court in 1935 established a rule in Bank of Am. etc. Assn. v. Pendergrass, 4 Cal. 2d 258 (1935) to limit the fraud exception to evidence that establishes an independent fact or representation, a fraud in the procurement of the instrument, or a breach of confidence concerning its use. That Pendergrass limitation excluded evidence of a promise at odds with the written contract. The instant case involved two borrowers who entered into a restructured debt agreement with a credit association after falling behind on their payments. After the credit association sought to foreclose on the borrowers for failing to perform under the agreement, the borrowers sued the association, claiming that its vice president had promised terms different from those reflected in the written contract. The Supreme Court affirmed the intermediate appellate court’s holding in favor of the borrowers that evidence of an alleged oral misrepresentation of the written terms is not barred by the Pendergrass rule; concluding that Pendergrass was “an aberration,” it overturned the rule. The court determined that the Pendergrass rule was out of step with established state law at the time it was adopted and was improperly supported in the court’s 1935 decision, and reaffirmed that the parol evidence rule was never intended to be used as a shield to prevent proof of fraud. The court did not address whether, in this case, the borrowers had presented evidence of reasonable reliance on the promised terms, particularly given that the borrowers admit to having not reviewed the contract. That issue will need to be first addressed by the trial court on remand.
Beginning September 1, 2012, Idaho and Pennsylvania transitioned to NMLS the state licensing process for certain non-mortgage consumer financial service providers. In Idaho, all money transmitters now have the option of using the NMLS to obtain or renew their licenses. In Pennsylvania, all debt management services, money transmitter, and accelerated mortgage payment providers can begin to use the NMLS for all licensing-related transactions as of September 1, 2012. Effective November 1, 2012, all new applications must be processed through NMLS, and all current license holders must submit a transition request by December 31, 2012.
Recently, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions finalized two rulemakings to amend existing regulations and adopt new regulations under the Consumer Loan Act and the Mortgage Broker Practices Act. The final rules make numerous changes impacting mortgage and other consumer lenders, including with regard to licensing and reporting. For example, the amendments to the Consumer Loan Act regulations (i) add requirements and prohibitions relating to force-placed insurance, (ii) clarify licensing exemptions for consumer lenders and mortgage originators, and (iii) add new provisions addressing the activities of servicers and third party residential mortgage loan modification services. The amendments under the Mortgage Broker Practices Act include some of the changes made under the Consumer Loan Act and, among other things (i) revise the definition of mortgage broker, (ii) require approval from the Department for an individual to work as a designated broker for more than one licensee, and (iii) clarify application of loan originator requirements to inactive licensees. All of the changes take effect on November 1, 2012.
Illinois Enhances Borrower Protections. On July 25, Illinois enacted SB 1692, which enhances consumer protections related to mortgages and tax refund anticipation loans. The bill amends the state’s High Risk Home Loan Act to (i) update the definition of “high risk home loan” to be consistent with the federal standard, and prohibit prepayment penalties, balloon payments and modification fees for such loans, (ii) revise the definition of “points and fees” and clarify the prohibition on the financing of such fees in connection with high risk loans, and (iii) limit late payment fees to 4% of the amount past due. The bill also amends the state’s Tax Refund Anticipation Loan Disclosure Act to (i) revise certain definitions, (ii) limit the fees that can be charged in connection with tax refund loans and establish other prohibited activities, and (iii) amend the disclosures required for creditors making such loans. These and other changes in the bill are effective January 1, 2013.
Michigan Updates Guidance on Return Check Fees on Installment Sales Contracts. On July 19, the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) published a letter to installment seller/sales finance licensees clarifying the regulator’s position on the use of return check fees in installment sales contracts. Previously, the OFIR had taken the position that inclusion of an NSF fee in a vehicle installment sales contract was not permitted because such a fee was not expressly permitted under the state’s Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act (MVSFA). However, in its July 19 letter the OFIR clarified that the OFIR considers it a violation of state law for a licensee under the MVSFA to charge a fee for returned checks if the motor vehicle installment sales contract does not specifically provide for the assessment of such a fee. The OFIR states that the MVSFA requires a contract contain all of the terms of the agreement between a buyer and a seller, including any default charges. Although the state Credit Reform Act permits regulated lenders to charge return check fees up to a maximum of $25, because a returned check constitutes a default under the contract, a return check fee is considered a default charge and can only be assessed if disclosed in the agreement.
Oregon Adopts Rules to Implement Foreclosure Avoidance Program. Recently, the Oregon Department of Justice adopted temporary rules to implement the Foreclosure Avoidance Mediation Program established earlier this year. The rules establish (i) the accepted methods of notice required to be provided to the state Attorney General, (ii) the minimum training and qualifications for mediators, (iii) the fees and timing of fee payments, and (iv) the form of mediation notice for use in seeking nonjudicial foreclosure. The rules took effect July 11, 2012, and expire January 6, 2013.