On December 4, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2013-24, which: (i) updates the modification terms for the “Cap and Extend Modification for Disaster Relief” to require servicers to set the interest rate to a fixed rate; and (ii) establishes the steps servicers must follow to determine borrowers’ modified payment terms. Fannie Mae encourages servicers to implement the new requirements immediately, but will not require them to do so until February 1, 2014. The announcement likewise requires, with immediate effect, that servicers update Form 582 (Lender Record Information) promptly after any change in previously-submitted information occurs. Finally, the announcement adds to the Servicing Guide glossary a definition for “seriously delinquent mortgage loan.”
FHFA Holds Conforming Loan Limits Steady, Announces Overhauled Mortgage Insurance Master Policy Requirements
On November 26, FHFA announced that 2014 maximum conforming loan limits will remain at $417,000, unchanged from 2013. On December 2, FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac soon will provide guidance to lenders and servicers regarding specific effective dates for new requirements under the entities’ aligned, overhauled mortgage insurance master policies, which guidance will include changes related to loss mitigation, claims, assurance of coverage, and information sharing. FHFA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac anticipate that the master policies will go into effect in 2014, pending review and approval by state insurance regulators.
On November 20, the FHFA Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report critical of Fannie Mae’s oversight of its short sale process and the servicers who participate in that process. The OIG determined—based on a review of 41 short sale transactions handled by multiple Fannie Mae servicers—that five servicers were not always collecting all of the required documentation before making borrower eligibility determinations or seeking Fannie Mae approval. The report states also that servicers sometimes failed to conduct adequate reviews supporting borrower eligibility determinations. Further, the OIG found that borrowers with potentially significant financial resources sold multiple non-owner occupied properties through Fannie Mae’s streamlined documentation program, which allows servicers to approve short sales based only on low FICO scores and delinquency status. The OIG recommends that Fannie Mae strengthen its oversight of the short sale program by (i) enforcing the requirement that all borrowers outside the streamlined documentation program provide a borrower-certified borrower assistance form; (ii) establishing controls to identify and resolve inconsistencies between the borrower assistance form and supporting documentation; (iii) considering whether its servicer compensation structure should include the quality of borrower eligibility determinations for short sales and success in limiting losses; and (iv) enhancing controls over collection and use of electronic information from servicers on the financial condition of borrowers. The OIG also suggests that the FHFA should: (i) determine whether the streamlined documentation program should be available to borrowers seeking approval to short sell non-owner occupied properties; and (ii) provide examination coverage of Fannie Mae’s short sale activities with particular emphasis on identifying systemic deficiencies related to borrower submissions, Fannie Mae eligibility determinations, servicer compensation structure, and reliability of electronic information used in managing short sales.
On November 5, the FHFA announced that it had directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to implement new restrictions on lender-placed insurance practices. In March, the FHFA sought comments on certain potential lender-placed insurance restrictions, including new policies to (i) prohibit sellers and servicers from receiving, directly or indirectly, remuneration associated with placing coverage with or maintaining placement with particular insurance providers, and (ii) prohibit sellers and servicers from receiving, directly or indirectly, remuneration associated with an insurance provider ceding premiums to a reinsurer that is owned by, affiliated with or controlled by the sellers or servicer. Following that comment process and related efforts by the FHFA to obtain feedback on these issues, the FHFA now has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide aligned guidance to sellers and servicers to prohibit servicers from being reimbursed for expenses associated with captive reinsurance arrangements. The announcement does not provide any timeline for the new guidance, but states Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will provide implementation schedules with the new rules.
On October 30, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2013-22, which describes various servicing policy updates. First, effective on or after February 1, 2014 for condominium insurance policy renewals, Fannie Mae is prohibiting the use of master or blanket insurance policies that cover multiple unaffiliated projects. Second, effective immediately for mortgage loan modifications, Fannie Mae is requiring that principal forbearance is payable upon the earliest of the maturity of the mortgage loan modification, sale or transfer of the property, refinance of the loan, or payoff of the interest-bearing unpaid principal. Third, effective January 1, 2014 for property inspection reimbursements, the Announcement updates the maximum amounts Fannie Mae will reimburse servicers for property inspections, outlines servicer responsibilities related to reimbursement requests, and clarifies the escalated case resolution process. Finally, the Announcement reminds servicers of their obligation to comply with both the Selling Guide and Servicing Guide, and informs servicers that requirements for maintaining eligibility and related fees were recently updated in the Selling Guide.
On October 29, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac jointly published a Uniform Loan Delivery Dataset (ULDD) Phase 3 preview, which is intended to provide lenders and vendors with an early look at the next phase’s specification to help them prepare for implementation in the fourth quarter of 2015. The joint preview identifies 15 new data points—13 related to the CFPB’s new ability-to-repay rule and two other data points that were deferred from Phase 2. In addition, the joint publication provides additional implementation notes and guidance on the 17 new data points that will be implemented in ULDD Phase 2 in 2015 (the exact implementation date will be announced by the end of the first quarter of 2014).
On October 22, Fannie Mae issued Selling Guide Announcement SEL-2013-08, which updates policies regarding (i) the use of a power of attorney, (ii) DU Refi Plus and Refi Plus eligibility, and (iii) master or blanket insurance for unaffiliated projects, among other miscellaneous updates. The Announcement updates provisions for use of a power of attorney in connection with the final loan application, restrictions on certain transaction types for which a power of attorney may be used, and requirements specifying who may not act as the attorney-in-fact or agent due to a potential financial connection to the transaction, except under limited circumstances. It also addresses the growing practice of lenders using powers of attorney as a matter of convenience or cost savings through a closing transaction facilitated by an online, interactive session between the borrower and a lender-chosen attorney-in-fact. In addition, the Announcement states that the eligibility date for DU Refi Plus or Refi Plus, which previously required the original loan to have been acquired by Fannie Mae on or before May 31, 2009, will now be based on the note date of the original loan. Finally, effective February 1, 2014, Fannie Mae will no longer permit master hazard insurance policies that provide coverage for multiple unaffiliated projects in a single insurance policy.
On October 23, a jury found a bank liable on one civil mortgage fraud charge arising out of a program operated by a lender the bank had acquired. The jury also found against a former executive of the acquired lender. The verdict followed a four week trial in the first DOJ case alleging violations of the FCA and FIRREA in connection with loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York will consider briefing on the penalty—the DOJ originally had sought damages close to $1 billion. The bank stated that it will evaluate its options for an appeal. For more information about the government’s expanding FCA/FIRREA civil fraud initiative, please visit our resource center.
On October 11, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2013-20 and Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2013-21 to update their delinquency management and default prevention servicing requirements in response to the CFPB’s new mortgage servicing rules. These updated servicing requirements, which are effective for servicing activities completed on or after January 10, 2014, align with the CFPB’s final rules implementing the mortgage servicing provisions of RESPA and TILA. The policy changes announced by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac include updates specific to mortgages secured by primary residences, as well as updates that apply to all mortgages. The servicing requirements affected by these policy changes, include, but are not limited to, (i) borrower inquiries and error resolution, (ii) written acknowledgement of a Borrower Response Package, (iii) early intervention and communication with delinquent borrowers, (iv) the evaluation of mortgage loan modification plans and the appeal process for the denial of such, (v) foreclosure referral and postponement, and (vi) pre-foreclosure reviews.
On October 17, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2013-21, which revises servicers’ responsibilities in finalizing standard deed-in-lieu of foreclosures (DILs). Servicers now must (i) complete a final interior property inspection no more than two business days following the receipt of the executed deed and all related documents, (ii) not complete final acceptance of the executed DIL until after they have received the results of the final property inspection, (iii) submit the case into HomeSaver Solutions Network (HSSN), regardless of the transition option chosen, to complete final acceptance of the DIL, and (iv) submit the REOgram within 24 hours of the date the servicer completes final acceptance of the executed DIL. The announcement also excludes from the three-month transition option program eligibility criteria the following requirements: (i) that at least three payments have been made since origination or since the last modification, (ii) that the loan is not 12 or more months delinquent when referred to Fannie Mae for transition option consideration, and (iii) that the borrower is not involved in an active bankruptcy proceeding. Finally, the announcement informs servicers that they are no longer required to ensure that a borrower will assign and transfer any rents to Fannie Mae and will collect rental income.
On October 8, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2013-19 to provide guidance related to the federal government shutdown that began on October 1. Fannie Mae recently issued similar guidance in Lender Letter LL-2013-08. The guidance addresses income verification for new loans to government employees and reminds servicers of forbearance options for borrowers impacted by the shutdown.
On October 1, Freddie Mac issued an industry letter and Fannie Mae issued Lender Letter LL-2013-07 to provide additional information regarding Freddie Mac’s and Fannie Mae’s new purchase eligibility requirements based on the CFPB’s final ability-to-repay/qualified mortgage (ATR/QM) rule. The letters inform sellers that, during an initial transitional period, the enterprises will not make any changes to their quality control processes and will not, except under certain circumstances, issue any repurchase requests related to the new points and fees eligibility requirements. The letters remind sellers that they must comply with all applicable laws regarding points and fees, including state laws and regulations that may be more restrictive than the CFPB ATR/QM rule, and withdraws prior guidance regarding excessive points and fees. Finally, the letters advise sellers that while Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are not at this time requiring any additional documentation, sellers should retain all materials that might be necessary to demonstrate compliance with the new eligibility requirements.
On September 24, Fannie Mae issued Selling Guide Announcement SEL-2013-07, which includes changes to various selling policies. The announcement states that the flood insurance coverage requirements have been updated to clarify existing policy, address common lender questions and align with prevalent industry practices, as well as to alter the requirements for flood insurance on attached condominium projects (requiring a master policy in effect at least equal to 80% of replacement cost or the maximum insurance available from the National Flood Insurance Program per unit, whichever is lower). Fannie Mae updated its maintenance fee (formerly known as inactivity fee) requirements, including, among other things, lowering the loan delivery threshold from $2 million in mortgage loans to one mortgage loan. The announcement also (i) revises the instructions for Form 360 (“Certificate of Authority, Incumbency, and Specimen Signatures”) to clarify that the form must be completed and signed by an officer of the lender or, if the lender is not a corporation, a member of senior management, (ii) enhances guidance on the allowable age of federal income tax returns and the tax-related documentation required by adding disbursement dates, and (iii) revises the temporary leave income policy to clearly state that documentation concerning the timing of the borrower’s return to work can be provided directly to the lender by the borrower or the employer. The announcement also includes several other selling policy changes, and describes selling guide updates based on previously announced policy changes related to ability to repay and qualified mortgages.
On September 20, the FHFA filed a motion requesting that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois amend an order it issued after holding on August 23 that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are exempt from a 2011 City of Chicago ordinance that established new requirements for mortgagees and their agents regarding the maintenance of vacant property. The FHFA, as conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, sued the city in December 2011 over the ordinance, which requires mortgagees to register vacant properties and pay a $500 registration fee per property. The FHFA asked the court “to specify the contents and persons” bound by its August 23 order. The motion was accompanied by a proposed order for declaratory and monetary relief, which would restate Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s immunity from the City’s ordinance and also would require the City to refund any payments that those the two enterprises, or any entities acting on their behalf, made pursuant to the ordinance.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Extend Streamlined Modifications, Announce HAMP Changes, Increase Certain State Foreclosure Timelines
On September 16, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2013-17, and on September 18, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2013-18, which extend those entities’ streamlined modification programs to include all streamlined modification trial period plans that become effective by December 1, 2015. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also extended the expiration date for HAMP such that Trial Period Plan Effective Dates must be on or before March 1, 2016 and Modification Effective Dates must be on or before September 1, 2016. Fannie Mae further applied these extended time frames to Second-Lien Modification Programs. In addition, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac revised their eligibility requirements for proposed HAMP modifications that are submitted through the Treasury Net Present Value Model on or after January 1, 2014. Further, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (i) retired the annual servicer “Pay for Success” incentive for HAMP-eligible mortgages, effective for modifications with effective dates on or after April 1, 2014 and (ii) updated requirements for repurchased loans subject to a HAMP permanent mortgage loan modification or trial plan. Finally, the Freddie Mac bulletin increased state foreclosure timelines by 30 days in Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington, for all foreclosure sales completed after September 1, 2013, while Fannie took the same action through a separate servicing notice.