New York’s COVID-19 Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention and Small Businesses Acts Extended to August 31, 2021—What You Need to Know

Wayne Streibich, Diana M. Eng, and Alina Levi

Lenders, mortgage servicers, and other financial institutions should take note that New York State passed legislation extending the protections set forth in the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 and the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act of 2021 to August 31, 2021. Thus, the requirements and stays with respect to residential and commercial foreclosures and evictions imposed by the legislation remain effective through August 31, 2021.

On May 4, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed a bill extending both (i) the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (the “EEFPA”); and (ii) the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act of 2021 (“SBA”), to August 31, 2021 (S.6362-A/A.7175-A) (the “Extended Act”). The purpose of the Extended Act, which is effective immediately, is to maintain protections prohibiting residential and commercial evictions, foreclosure proceedings, credit discrimination, and negative credit reporting related to the COVID-19 pandemic until August 31, 2021, if the borrowers, mortgagors, and/or tenants submit the required Hardship Declaration with the foreclosing party, landlord/their agent, or the Court. In practice, however, some courts have extended the stay even without the required Hardship Declaration.  

Highlights of the Extended Act are summarized below, but please refer to the full text of the Extended Act for additional information.

LIMITS OF THE EXTENDED ACT

  • The Extended Act still does not apply to residential eviction and foreclosure actions involving vacant and abandoned properties, listed on the statewide vacant, and abandoned property electronic registry (as such terms are defined in Sections 1309(2) and 1310 of New York’s Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law) prior to March 7, 2020, and which remain on such registry.
  • The Extended Act also does not apply to, and does not affect, any residential or commercial mortgage loan made, insured, purchased, or securitized by a corporate governmental agency of the state constituted as a political subdivision and public benefit corporation or the rights and obligations of any lender, issuer servicer, or trustee of such obligations.
  • The portion of the Extended Act addressing the SBA still only applies to commercial tenants, who independently own and operate their business, have 50 or fewer employees, and experience financial hardship and are unable to pay the rent or other financial obligations under the lease in full or obtain an alternative suitable commercial property as a result of:
      1. significant loss of revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic; and/or

      2. significant increase in necessary expenses related to providing personal protective equipment to employees or purchasing and installing other protective equipment to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 within the business; and/or

      3. moving expenses and difficulty in securing an alternative commercial property make it a hardship for the business to relocate to another location.

  • The Extended Act still permits residential and commercial evictions of tenants, who persistently and unreasonably engage in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or cause a substantial safety hazard to others.

To read the full client alert, please click here

The Hunstein Effect—Examining the Eleventh Circuit’s Ruling and What’s Next for Debt Collectors and Their Third-Party Service Providers

Wayne Streibich, Nicole R. Topper, Scott E. Wortman, and Anthony Richard Yanez

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has delivered a novel and highly consequential interpretation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that is potentially transformative for debt collectors and their third-party service providers.

On April 21, 2021, in Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc., — F.3d — (2021), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a decision on a case of first impression, finding that a debt collector’s transmittal of a consumer’s personal information to its letter vendor constituted a prohibited third-party communication “in connection with the collection of any debt” within the meaning of section 1692c(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). As discussed below, this ruling has broad ranging ramifications for the accounts receivable management industry and will likely foster a new wave of litigation under the FDCPA.

By way of background, this lawsuit originated from unpaid bills for medical treatment at a hospital. The hospital assigned the unpaid bills to a debt collector that had contracted with a third-party vendor for printing and mailing its collection letters. The collector electronically transmitted to its vendor certain information about the plaintiff/debtor such as: (1) his status as a debtor, (2) the exact balance of his debt, (3) the entity to which he owed the debt, (4) that the debt concerned his son’s medical treatment, and (5) his son’s name. The vendor then used that information to generate and send a dunning letter to the debtor. The debtor received the dunning letter and then filed a lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida alleging violations of both the FDCPA and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. The district court dismissed the lawsuit for failure to state a claim by concluding that the debtor had not sufficiently alleged that the collector’s transmittal of information to the letter vendor was a communication “in connection with the collection of a debt.” The debtor then appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.

To read the full client alert, please click here.

CFPB Issues Debt Collection Interim Final Rule Due to the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

Wayne StreibichDiana M. Eng, and Chenxi Jiao

The CFPB’s interim final rule amends Regulation F to, among other things, (i) require debt collectors to provide written notice to certain consumers about the CDC’s temporary eviction protections; and (ii) prohibit debt collectors from misrepresenting that a consumer is ineligible for eviction protection under the CDC’s moratorium. Debt collectors should take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the amendment.

On April 19, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued an interim final rule to amend Regulation F at 12 C.F.R. § 1006 (the “IFR”) to require debt collectors to provide consumers with disclosures relating to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) order, titled “Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19” (86 FR 16731 (Mar. 31, 2021)) (the “CDC Order”). The CDC Order “generally prohibits a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action from evicting for non-payment of rent any person protected by the CDC Order from any residential property in any jurisdiction in which the CDC Order applies.” This prohibition applies to any agent or attorney acting on behalf of a landlord or owner of a residential property. Notably, however, the CDC Order does not cover foreclosure on a home mortgage.

The CFPB issued the IFR due to its concerns that consumers are unaware of their protections under the CDC Order and that debt collectors may be engaging in eviction-related conduct that violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. (the “FDCPA”). The IFR applies to “debt collectors,” “consumers,” and “debt,” as defined in the FDCPA.

To read the full client alert, please click here.

CFPB Proposes COVID-19 Rule to Amend Its Mortgage Servicing Rule and Provide Additional Guidance Related to the Pandemic

Jonathan K. Moore, Scott D. Samlin, Chenxi Jiao, and Louise Bowes Marencik

On April 5, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that proposes amendments to its Mortgage Servicing Rule (the “Proposed Rule”) to provide additional assistance for borrowers impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. The pandemic has resulted in nearly three million borrowers with delinquent mortgages, which is more homeowners in default than any time since the peak of the Great Recession in 2010. Nearly 1.7 million borrowers will exit forbearance programs in September and the following months upon expiration of the maximum term of 18 months in forbearance for federally backed mortgage loans. The Proposed Rule is intended to ensure that these homeowners have the opportunity to be evaluated for loss mitigation options prior to their loans being referred to foreclosure.

If finalized, the Proposed Rule would apply to all mortgages on a principal residence and amend Regulation X (12 CFR 1024).

To read the full client alert, please click here.

CFPB Proposes Delay of Effective Date for Debt Collection Rules

Jonathan K. Moore and Louise Bowes Marencik

On April 7, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking delaying the effective date of its recent debt collection final rules. The final rules, which were issued on October 30, 2020 and December 18, 2020, were scheduled to become effective on November 30, 2021. However, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the CFPB has proposed delaying the effective date until January 29, 2022, in order to give the affected parties additional time to review and comply with the new rules.

To read the full client alert, please click here.

NY Department of Financial Services Enforces First-in-the-Nation Cybersecurity Rules and Fines Mortgage Lender $1.5 Million for Failure to Comply

Andrea M. Roberts and Diana M. Eng

In March 2017, New York State’s Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) implemented the nation’s first cybersecurity rules requiring all regulated entities, such as banks, insurers, financial businesses, and regulated virtual currency operators, to fortify their cybersecurity protocols by implementing and maintaining cybersecurity policies (the “Cybersecurity Regulation”). These protocols and policies include, among other things, establishing a detailed security plan, increasing the monitoring of third-party vendors, appointing chief information security officers, and reporting breaches to the Superintendent of the Department of Finance within 72 hours of identifying a Cybersecurity Event.[1] The Cybersecurity Regulation is codified at 23 NYCRR 500.

For the second time, DFS has fined a regulated entity for failure to comply with the Cybersecurity Regulation. In March 2020, DFS commenced an examination of Residential Mortgage Services, Inc. (“Residential”), a Mortgage Banker (as defined in the Banking Law) based in Maine and licensed in New York. The examination encompassed a general compliance, safety, and soundness review, as well as compliance with the Cybersecurity Regulation. During the review, Residential disclosed for the first time a Cybersecurity Event, which had occurred nearly 18 months earlier. Specifically, an employee, who handles sensitive personal data, received a phishing e-mail and clicked on a hyperlink to a malicious website. DFS determined that although Residential’s technical support staff was alerted to the suspicious activity, Residential’s internal investigation was inadequate since it did not conduct any further inquiry after concluding the unauthorized access was limited to the employee’s e-mail account. Further, DFS determined Residential failed to satisfy the notification requirements of the Cybersecurity Regulation, as Residential failed to (i) identify whether the employee’s mailbox contained private consumer data during the breach and which consumers were impacted; and (ii) notify the Department of Finance within 72 hours of identifying a Cybersecurity Event. Finally, DFS determined that Residential was missing a comprehensive cybersecurity risk assessment, which should have led to the periodic evaluation of controls designed to protect nonpublic information and information systems.

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U.S. Supreme Court Holds “Autodialer” Definition under the TCPA Is Limited to Equipment Using a Random or Sequential Number Generator

Wayne StreibichDiana M. Eng, and Andrea M. Roberts

Financial institutions, debt collectors, and consumer-facing businesses should take note that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the definition of an “autodialer” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, as written, requires that the device must use a random or sequential number generator. This narrow interpretation should shield companies from liability in current or future actions, where the consumers’ telephone numbers are known and not random or sequentially generated.

In Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, 592 U.S. ___ (2021), the United States Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) narrowly interpreted the definition of “autodialer” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), holding the definition excludes equipment that does not use a random or sequential number generator. SCOTUS specifically held that an “automatic telephone dialing system” is limited to equipment that either stores a telephone number using a random or sequential number generator, or produces a telephone number using a random or sequential number generator.

Summary of Facts and Background

Plaintiff Noah Duguid (“Plaintiff”) began receiving several login-notification text messages from defendant Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”), alerting him that someone had attempted access to the Facebook account associated with his phone number from an unknown browser. Plaintiff never had a Facebook account and had not given Facebook his phone number. As such, Plaintiff commenced a putative class action in the District Court for the Northern District of California (“District Court”) against Facebook, alleging it violated the TCPA by maintaining a database that stored phone numbers and programmed its equipment to send automated text messages to the stored phone numbers each time the person’s account was accessed by an unrecognized device or browser.

Facebook moved to dismiss, arguing that it did not violate the TCPA because Facebook did not use an automatic dialer, as its text messages were not sent to phone numbers that were randomly or sequentially generated. Rather, Facebook sent targeted, individualized texts to phone numbers linked to specific accounts. The District Court agreed with Facebook and dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice.

Plaintiff appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (“Ninth Circuit”) reversed the District Court’s order. The Ninth Circuit held that an autodialer “need not be able to use a random or sequential generator to store numbers; it need only have the capacity to ‘store numbers to be called’ and ‘to dial such numbers automatically.’” SCOTUS granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split among the Courts of Appeals regarding whether the definition of an “automatic telephone dialing system” includes equipment that can “store” and dial phone numbers, even if such equipment does not “us[e] a random or sequential number generator.”

To read the full client alert, please click here.

CFPB Issues Second Final Rule Clarifying Regulation of Fair Debt Collection Practices

Wayne Streibich, Jonathan K. Moore, and Louise Bowes Marencik

On December 18, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued a final rule concerning debt collection disclosures, which follows its October 30, 2020 final rule regarding debt collection communications. The two final rules implement and interpret the consumer protections set forth in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) of 1977. The final rules will both become effective on November 30, 2021.

The latest final rule outlines various requirements regarding debt collection disclosures. Specifically, a debt collector must send a written disclosure to a consumer containing information concerning the debt and actions the consumer may take in response, within five days of its initial communication with the consumer. This disclosure must be sent unless such validation information was provided in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt. The final rule includes a model validation notice, which, if used, provides a safe harbor for compliance with the disclosure requirements. The final rule also requires debt collectors to disclose the existence of a debt to the customer, orally, in writing, or electronically, before it can report information concerning the debt to a consumer reporting agency.

Please click here to read the full client alert.

New York’s Department of Financial Services Issues Regulation for Financial Institutions to Provide Relief to Consumers Suffering Financial Hardship Resulting from COVID-19 Pandemic

Wayne StreibichDiana M. Eng, Andrea M. RobertsScott D. Samlin

On March 21, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.9, directing institutions regulated by New York’s Department of Financial Services (“NY DFS”) to provide financial relief to New York consumers experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. As a result, on March 24, 2020, NY DFS enacted Part 119 of Title 3 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (“NYCRR”) establishing standards and procedures that a “Regulated Institution” must follow in its review of requests for relief pursuant to Executive Order 202.9. Importantly, Section 119.2 defines a “Regulated Institution” as “any New York regulated banking organization as defined under New York Banking Law and any New York regulated mortgage servicer entity subject to the authority of the Department.” (Emphasis added).

Highlights of the NY DFS Regulation1

Section 119.3 directs the Regulated Institution to do the following for any individual who can demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • In connection with a residential mortgage of a property located in NY: (i) make applications for forbearance of any payment due widely available to any individual who resides in NY and (ii) grant such forbearance for a period of 90 days (subject to the safety and soundness requirements of the Regulated Institution). This provision does not apply to, and does not affect mortgage loans “made, insured, or securitized by any agency or instrumentality of the United States, any Government Sponsored Enterprise, or a Federal Home Loan Bank, or the rights and obligations of any lender, issuer, servicer or trustee of such obligations, including servicers for the Government National Mortgage Association.”
  • With respect to banking organizations: (1) eliminate fees charged for the use of ATMs that are owned or operated by the regulated banking organization; (2) eliminate any overdraft fees; and (3) eliminate any credit card late payment fees. (Regulated Institutions are not limited to these three requirements and may take additional actions if they so desire.)

Within ten (10) business days of the implementation of this regulation, i.e., by April 7, 2020, the Regulated Institution shall e-mail, publish on their website, mass mail, or otherwise broadly communicate to its customers how to apply for relief. The criteria, developed by the Regulated Institution, “shall be clear, easy to understand, and reasonably tailored to the requirements of the [R]egulated [I]nstitution to assess whether it will provide, consistent with the goals of Executive Order 202.9 and this regulation, applicable state and federal law, and the principles of safe and sound business practices, COVID-19 relief.” 3 NYCRR § 119.3(d)(1).

In addition, Section 119.3(e) outlines the requirements for processing applications for relief, as follows:

  • The Regulated Institution must process and respond to the request for relief no later than ten (10) business days after receiving all the information it needs to process the application;
  • The Regulated Institution must process the application for relief expeditiously; the Regulated Institution is responsible for developing and implementing the procedures to do so; and
  • Decisions on the application for relief shall be made in writing and provide the consumers the next steps if they are approved or denied the request.

Finally, Section 119.39(4) modifies Section 39 of the New York Banking Law concerning unsafe and unsound business practices. Under the modified section, it is an “unsafe and unsound business practice” if any Regulated Institution does not “grant a forbearance of any payment due on a residential mortgage for a period of ninety (90) days to any individual who has applied for such forbearance and demonstrated a financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as described herein.” NY DFS will consider, among other things, the adequacy of the process established by the Regulated Institution, the thoroughness of the review of the application, and the payment history, creditworthiness and financial resources of the borrower, in assessing whether a regulated institution has engaged in an unsafe or unsound practice. Regulated Institutions must also maintain copies of all files related to implementation of Part 119 for seven (7) years from March 24, 2020 (date of implementation of the regulation) and must make such files available for inspection at the NY DFS’ next examination of the Regulated Institution.

The standards and procedures set forth in Part 119 shall be in effect for ninety (90) days. After the expiration of the 90-day period, NY DFS will renew this emergency regulation, if necessary.

Conclusion

Regulated Institutions must implement processes and procedures to comply with Part 119 by April 7, 2020, including immediately setting up procedures to review applications for relief and taking the necessary steps to notify its customers of how to apply for such relief. Thus, Regulated Institutions should determine which of its loans, if any, are subject to this regulation and accept and review its customers for forbearance relief as described in the regulation.

Mr. Streibich would like to thank Diana M. Eng, Andrea M. Roberts, and Scott D. Samlin for their assistance in developing this alert.


1 This Alert provides the highlights of the regulation, which does not apply to any commercial mortgage or any other loans not described in the regulation. Please visit the NY DFS website for the complete regulation: dfs.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2020/03/re_new_pt119_nycrr3_text.pdf.

CFPB Proposes Regulations to Clarify, Modernize, and Implement the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Wayne Streibich, Diana M. Eng, Jonathan M. Robbin, Nicole R. Topper, Scott E. Wortman, and Paul Messina Jr.

Financial institutions and debt collectors should take note of, and provide comments on, the CFPB’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which attempts to provide consumers with “clear protections against harassment by debt collectors and straightforward options to address or dispute debts.”      

On May 7, 2019, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) released its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), aiming to clarify and modernize the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The over 500-page NPRM marks the CFPB’s latest half-decade long effort to issue the first set of substantive rules interpreting the FDCPA since its passage in 1977.

Background

Seeking to curb abuses in the debt collection industry, Congress enacted the FDCPA in 1977. However, with the passage of time and the creation of new technologies, ambiguities and uncertainties in the industry developed. Without any federal agency delegated authority to write substantive rules interpreting the FDCPA, the courts were left with the sole burden of doing so. That changed in 2010, when Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) delegating authority to the CFPB.

Citing the ongoing and abundance of consumer complaints, as well as the need to adapt the FDCPA for modern technologies, the CFPB called for public input on potential new regulations in 2013, and again in 2016, releasing an outline of proposals under consideration. This week’s NPRM incorporates many of those ideas with some adjustments. The NPRM will be open for 90 days for public comment following its publication in the Federal Register.

Please click here for the full client alert.