CFPB PROPOSES CHANGES TO MORTGAGE SERVICING RULES

By: Joshua A. Huber

On November 20, 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “Bureau”) proposed changes to the mortgage servicing rules under Regulation X, which implements the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), and Regulation Z, the implementing regulation for the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”). The Bureau has proposed, with one exception,[1] that the amendments take effect 280 days after publication of a final rule in the Federal Register.

The proposal encompasses nine broad topics,[2] the most significant of which are summarized below:

Expansion to Successors in Interest. The Bureau is proposing to apply all of the Mortgage Servicing Rules[3] to successors in interest of a borrower once a servicer confirms the successor in interest’s identity and ownership interest in the property. This aspect of the proposal would help ensure that those who inherit or receive property, such as a surviving family member, have the same protections under the Mortgage Servicing Rules as the original borrower.

Requests for Information. The Bureau is proposing amendments that would change how a servicer must respond to requests for information asking for ownership information for loans in trust for which Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is the trustee, investor, or guarantor. As modified, mortgage servicers for loans for which Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is the trustee, investor, or guarantor would comply with their obligations under Regulation X[4] when the servicer responds to requests for information asking only for the owner or assignee of the loan by providing only the name and contact information for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, as applicable, without also providing the name of the trust.

Loss Mitigation. The most sweeping aspects of the proposed rule changes are those pertaining to loss mitigation. The Bureau is proposing to:

(1) Require servicers to meet the loss mitigation requirements more than   once in the life of a loan for borrowers who become current after a delinquency;

(2) Modify the existing exception to the 120-day prohibition on foreclosure filing to allow a servicer to join the foreclosure action of a senior lienholder;

(3) Clarify that servicers have significant flexibility in setting a reasonable date by which a borrower must return documents and information to complete an application, so long as the date maximizes borrower protections and allows borrowers a reasonable period of time to return documents and information;

(4) Clarify that servicers must take affirmative steps to delay a foreclosure sale, even where the sale is conducted by a third party, including clarification that the servicer has a duty to instruct foreclosure counsel to take steps to comply with the dual-tracking prohibitions and that a servicer who has not taken, or caused counsel to take, all reasonable affirmative steps to delay the sale, is required to dismiss the foreclosure action if necessary to avoid the sale;

(5) Require that servicers who receive a complete loss mitigation application must promptly provide borrowers with written notice stating: (a) a complete application was received, (b) additional information may be requested if needed, (c) the date of completion, (d) whether a foreclosure sale was scheduled as of that date, (e) the date foreclosure protections began, (f) the borrower’s applicable appeal rights, and (g) that the servicer will complete its evaluation within 30 days;

(6) Address and clarify how servicers obtain and evaluate third party information not in the borrower’s control, including: (a) prohibiting servicers from denying modifications based upon delays in receiving such third party information; (b) requiring prompt notice to the borrower of any missing third party information within 30 days after receiving a complete application; and (c) requiring servicers to notify borrowers of their determination in writing promptly upon receipt of the third party information;

(7) Permit servicers to offer a short-term repayment plan based upon an evaluation of an incomplete application;

(8) Clarify that servicers may stop collecting documents and information from a borrower pertaining to a loss mitigation option after receiving information confirming that the borrower is ineligible for that option; and

(9) Address and clarify how loss mitigation procedures and timelines apply to a transferee servicer that receives a mortgage loan for which there is a loss mitigation application pending at the time of a servicing transfer.[5]

The proposed rules, including the proposed effective date, will be open for public comment for 90 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

These proposed rules, particularly as they pertain to loss mitigation, may present operational challenges for mortgage servicers. The revised notice requirements and additional loss mitigation obligations may result in significant increased litigation and compliance costs.

[1] The Bureau has proposed that the amendments applicable to the periodic statement requirement for certain bankrupt borrowers should take effect one year after publication.

[2] In addition to the areas addressed herein, the Proposed Rules include: (1) a definition of the word “delinquency,” (2) new requirements pertaining to force-placed insurance, (3) clarification of the “early intervention” requirements for loss mitigation, (4) guidance regarding payment crediting and application for borrowers under temporary or permanent loan modifications, and (5) changes to the definition of “small servicer.”

[3] The term “Mortgage Servicing Rules” as used herein refers to the Bureau’s January 2013 final rules pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Public Law 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376 (2010), as amended in 2013 and 2014. See 78 FR 44685 (July 24, 2013), 78 FR 60381 (Oct. 1, 2013), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq, 78 FR 62993 (Oct. 23, 2013).

[4] 12 CFR § 1024.36(d).

[5] The proposed rule would cover the transfer of mortgages between servicers during the loss mitigation process. In a voluntary transfer, the new servicer would be required to observe the date the borrower’s loss mitigation application became complete with the prior servicer. The new servicer would be provided an additional five days to provide the acknowledgment notice. However, for an involuntary transfer, the new servicer would be provided at least 15 days to evaluate the transferred loss mitigation applications.

 

 

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