NYDFS Unveils Consumer Bill of Rights for Mortgage Foreclosures; Announces New Regulations for “Zombie Properties”

On December 7, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the publication of the NYDFS Residential Foreclosure Actions Consumer Bill of Rights – intended to offer guidance to homeowners facing foreclosure in New York. Concurrently, the New York Governor also announced new NYDFS regulations intended to curb the threat to communities posed by vacant and abandoned properties (“zombie properties”) by “expediting foreclosure proceedings, improving the efficiency and integrity of the mandatory settlement conferences, and obligating banks and mortgage servicers to secure, protect and maintain vacant and abandoned properties before and during foreclosure proceedings.”

The Consumer Bill of Rights acts as guidance for homeowners facing foreclosure, and specifies that homeowners have certain rights and obligations, including, among others: (i) the right to stay in the home unless and until a court orders the homeowner to vacate the property; (ii) the right to be represented by an attorney; (iii) the right to be free from harassment and foreclosure scams; (iv) the right to avoid foreclosure by making a full or negotiated payment prior to foreclosure sale; (v) the right to be notified at least 90 days prior to a foreclosure suit being filed; (vi) the right to explore loss mitigation options; and (vii) the right to receive a copy of legal papers in a lawsuit. The Consumer Bill of Rights also outlines various obligations of a homeowner, including to respond to complaints, appearing at court, and negotiating in good faith. Under the law, the court must provide homeowners a copy of the Consumer Bill of Rights at the initial mandatory settlement conference.

With respect to vacant and abandoned properties, the new regulations target blight caused by such zombie properties by, among other things, requiring that bank and mortgage servicers: (i) complete an inspection of a property subject to delinquency within 90 days; (ii) secure and maintain the property where the bank or servicer has a reasonable basis to believe that the property is vacant and abandoned; (iii) report all such vacant and abandoned properties to NYDFS; and (iv) submit quarterly reports detailing both their efforts to secure and maintain the properties and the status of any foreclosure proceedings. The NYDFS Superintendent is authorized under the new regulations to issue civil penalties of $500 per day per property for violations of the new regulations.

Additional information about the new regulations and procedures for complying with the new law’s inspection, maintenance and reporting requirements can be found here.

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CFPB Publishes Updated Version of its Mortgage Servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide

On December 1, the CFPB published an updated version of the Mortgage Servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide on its “Mortgage Servicing Implementation & Guidance” webpage. The updated guide incorporates amendments made to mortgage servicing provisions in Regulation X and Regulation Z by the 2016 Mortgage Servicing final rule. Most provisions of the 2016 Mortgage Serving final rule take effect on October 19, 2017. However, the provisions relating to successors in interest and the provisions relating to periodic statements for borrowers in bankruptcy will not take effect until April 19, 2018.

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FHFA: No Increase on Multifamily Loan Caps for GSEs

On November 22, FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s caps for multifamily lending will remain at $36.5 billion for 2017. The determination was based on the agency’s projection that the overall size of the multifamily finance market will remain roughly the same as it was in 2016. Multifamily loans in designated affordable and underserved segments will remain excluded from the caps.

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Dept. of Energy Releases Updated PACE Loan Guidelines

On November 18, the Department of Energy released new best practices guidelines for residential Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) mortgages, which provide homeowners a way to finance energy-efficient home improvements through property tax assessments. The new guidelines are intended to help state and local governments as they expand their PACE programs, and address the various problems that have emerged in the market since the PACE framework was first established in 2009. Among other things, the guidelines suggest that PACE programs confirm property owners’ ability to repay their assessments, and that state and local governments work with program administrators to establish underwriting guidelines and criteria for PACE programs.

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Mortgage Services Provider Agrees to Settlement with NYDFS

In a press release issued November 9, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that a leading mortgage services provider and its affiliate, agreed to pay a $28 million fine and engage a third-party auditor as part of a settlement agreement and consent order with the NY Department of Financial Services. The matter arose after a series of audits conducted by the NYDFS had revealed inconsistencies in how mortgage foreclosures were documented and processed. As part of the settlement agreement, the company has agreed to allow an independent third-party auditor to help identify borrowers entitled to refunds.

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