On March 29, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the OCC, the NCUA, and the Farm Credit Administration issued an interagency statement to clarify the effective dates for changes to the Flood Disaster Protection Act enacted last year in the Biggert-Water Flood Insurance Reform Act (the Act). The statement informs financial institutions that the force-placed aspects of the Act became effective upon enactment, which was July, 6, 2012, while provisions related to private flood insurance and escrow of flood insurance payments do not take effect until the agencies issue regulations. The statement reiterates the OCC’s prior statement that the new flood insurance penalty provisions in the Act took effect immediately and apply to violations that occurred on or after July 6, 2012.
On April 11, HUD issued Mortgagee Letter 2013-11, which amends prior guidance related to the origination and servicing of FHA-insured loans in declared disaster areas. The letter stresses that prior guidance requiring a moratorium on foreclosures of properties in disaster areas for 90 days applies to the initiation of foreclosures and foreclosures already in process. The letter outlines steps servicers should take to determine the appropriate course of action for each borrower, including a review of individual facts and circumstances to determine whether to offer forbearance and other loss mitigation alternatives. The letter details such loss mitigation options and servicer requirements. The policy changes took effect immediately.
On April 9, HUD issued Mortgagee Letter 2013-10 to explain enhancements to the Lender Insurance program that allows high-performing mortgagees to conduct pre-endorsement reviews and insure loans. Those enhancements were implemented by a January 2012 HUD rule. The letter summarizes changes made by that rule, reviews mortgagee eligibility requirements for participation in the Lender Insurance program, and outlines the initial application process. Among other things, the letter also discusses the conditions under which a mortgagee’s lender insurance authority can be terminated or suspended and explains how mortgages with such authority are subject to a revised indemnification policy.
On February 22, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2013-02, reminding servicers that when they deposit undisbursed insurance loss draft funds into an interest-bearing account, the account must be for the borrower’s benefit and, regardless of the mortgage loan’s delinquency status, the servicer must comply with applicable laws regarding the disbursement of interest earned to the borrower. The announcement also introduced a new form for use when referring a borrower to Fannie Mae for the exit option that allows a three-month transition with no rent payment required, and updated the form to be used when referring a borrower for the exit option that allows up to a twelve-month lease with a market rent payment. On February 27, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2013-03, describing servicing policy changes and updates to (i) private flood insurance, (ii) termination of applicable force-placed insurance, and (iii) special remittance type codes. The private flood insurance change follows a related announcement, SEL-2013-02, which, among other things, informed sellers that Fannie Mae must accept flood insurance from private providers as an alternative to National Flood Insurance Program policies. The insurance-related policies are effective immediately, and servicers must report using the new codes for applicable special remittances on or after April 1, 2013.
On November 20, the OCC issued Bulletin 2012-38 to advise national banks and federal savings associations about a recent OCC rule that adjusted the maximum civil money penalties (CMPs) for inflation and implemented higher flood insurance CMPs. The OCC rule revises the penalty tables that identify the statutes that provide the OCC with CMP authority, describe the different tiers of penalties provided in each statute, and set out the maximum penalty the OCC may impose pursuant to each statutory provision. The rule also implements the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was signed into law on July 6, 2012 as part of a broad transportation bill. That Act increased the maximum CMP per flood insurance violation and removed the annual cap on flood insurance penalties assessed against a single lender in a calendar year. Effective December 6, 2012, any regulated lending institution that is found to have a pattern or practice of committing flood insurance violations will be assessed a civil penalty not to exceed $2,000 per violation, with no calendar year limit on such penalties.
On November 16, the Iowa Supreme Court held that a mortgage servicer may be liable to borrowers for failing to disclose information it acquired about the borrowers’ flood hazard risks. Bagelmann v. First Nat’l Bank, No. 11-1484, 2012 WL 5642039 (Iowa Nov. 16, 2012). After their home flooded, the borrowers sued their mortgage lender and servicer and alleged that at the time of origination and two years later during a refinance transaction, the lender incorrectly informed them that the property was not in a special flood hazard area and that no flood insurance was required. According to the borrowers, several years later the servicer was advised that the property was in a special flood hazard area and failed to inform the borrowers prior to their property flooding. The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s holdings that (i) the borrowers cannot use the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Act as a basis for a state-law claim, (ii) the lender and servicer did not breach a contract with the borrowers, and (iii) the borrowers do not have a viable negligent misrepresentation claim. However, the Supreme Court determined that the borrowers provided evidence from which a fact finder could infer that the servicer knew prior to the flood that the property was in a flood zone and that prior representations to the contrary were incorrect. Therefore, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment to the servicer and remanded the case for further consideration of a possible claim based on Restatement (Second) of Torts section 551(2) against their servicer. The court also affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment to the lender on the grounds that the lender no longer had a banking relationship with the borrowers.