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  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac release updates to servicing guides

    Federal Issues

    On April 11, Fannie Mae updated its Servicing Guide, regarding servicing transfer welcome calls. Pursuant to Fannie Mae SVC-2018-03, transferee servicers are no longer required to, among other things, initiate welcome calls within five days of the transfer of servicing. Transferee servicers may now implement their own processes for borrower contact as long as the servicer remains in compliance with applicable laws. Fannie Mae also updated the Servicing Guide to add flexibility in connection with the collection of escrow shortages during a mortgage modification.  Under the amendment to the Servicing Guide, servicers may spread repayment of the shortage amount over a term of up to 60 months, unless the borrower decides to pay up-front. Additionally, Fannie Mae released a revised Reverse Mortgage Loan Servicing Manual, which includes updates to expense reimbursement claim submissions and mortgage loan status codes.

    On the same day, Freddie Mac released Guide Bulletin 2018-6, which, among other things, updates servicer requirements on Subsequent Transfers of Servicing (STOS) and borrower-paid mortgage insurance. Effective July 23, transferor servicers must use the automated STOS request system and new transfer requests must be submitted at least 45 days and no more than 60 days prior to the effective date of the transfer. The Bulletin also provides additional details on initiating the electronic STOS and executing the STOS agreement. There will be a temporary moratorium on STOS requests and modifications to existing requests from July 9 through July 20, in order for Freddie Mac to implement the new process.

    Separately, the Bulletin includes various changes to streamline servicer responsibilities in canceling borrower-paid mortgage insurance, such as now allowing servicers to process a borrower’s verbal request to cancel mortgage insurance and simplifying the process to determine current value.  

    Consistent with the Fannie updates, Freddie Mac also modified its escrow shortage collection requirements to allow repayment to be spread over up to 60 months.

    Federal Issues Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Servicing Guide Mortgages Mortgage Modification Mortgage Servicing Reverse Mortgages Mortgage Insurance

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  • 8th Circuit reverses district court’s decision, rules plaintiff failed to demonstrate actual damages under RESPA

    Courts

    On April 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit reversed a district court’s decision, which granted summary judgement in favor of a consumer (plaintiff) who claimed a mortgage loan servicer violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedure Act (RESPA) and the Minnesota Mortgage Originator and Servicer Licensing Act when it failed to adequately respond to his qualified written requests concerning erroneous delinquency allegations. The district court ruled that the plaintiff suffered actual damages of $80 under his RESPA claims when the loan servicer “made minimal effort to investigate the error” and failed to provide the plaintiff with requested information about his loan history since origination. The “pattern or practice” of non-compliance also, in the district court’s view, justified $2000 in statutory damages. The plaintiff also received a separate damage award, attorney’s fees and costs under the Minnesota statute. However, under RESPA, a plaintiff must demonstrate proof of actual damages resulting from a loan servicer’s failure, and the three-judge panel argued that the plaintiff “failed to prove actual damages” because the loan servicer’s “failure to comply with RESPA did not cause [the plaintiff’s] alleged harm.” The panel opined that while the loan servicer failed to (i) conduct an adequate investigation following the plaintiff’s request as to why there was a delinquency for his account, and (ii) failed to provide a complete loan payment history when requested, its failure to comply with RESPA involved pre-2011 payment history for which the plaintiff eventually requested and received the relevant loan payment records at no cost. In fact, the panel stated, the only evidence of actual damages was the $80 the plaintiff spent for bank account records, but that expense concerned a separate dispute about whether the plaintiff missed two payments in 2012 and 2013, which the plaintiff eventually acknowledged that he did, in fact, fail to make. Since the loan servicer did not commit an error with respect to the missed payments, the court concluded that the $80 spent by plaintiff were not the result of the loan servicer’s failure to investigate and provide information related to the pre-2011 payment history. To the contrary, with respect to responding to the plaintiff’s inquiries regarding the missing payments, the loan servicer had “complied with its duties under RESPA.”

    Furthermore, the panel stated that the plaintiff failed to provide evidence that the loan servicer engaged in a “pattern or practice of noncompliance.” The 8th Circuit remanded the case back to the district court with directions to enter judgment in favor of the loan servicer on the RESPA claims and for further proceedings on claims under the Minnesota statute.

    Courts Appellate Eighth Circuit RESPA Mortgage Servicing Mortgages State Issues

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  • CFPB updates mortgage servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide, releases mortgage servicing coverage chart

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 29, the CFPB released version 3.1 of its mortgage servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide. The updated guide supports the implementation of the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule, including the amendment to the Rule released earlier this month. The Rule replaces the previous single-billing-cycle exemption with a single-statement exemption when servicers transition to providing modified or unmodified periodic statements and coupon books to consumers entering or exiting bankruptcy. See previous InfoBytes coverage here. The Bureau also released a mortgage servicing coverage chart, which summarizes the mortgage servicing rules that will be in effect as of April 19.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgage Servicing Bankruptcy Consumer Finance Regulation X Regulation Z

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  • CFPB releases FAQs on bankruptcy issues under the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 20, the CFPB released updated FAQs to support the implementation of the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule. Specifically, the updated FAQs pertain to the mortgage-servicing provisions regarding bankruptcy, which are effective April 19. The CFPB released ten bankruptcy-related question and answers. The bankruptcy topics include periodic statements, coupon books, reaffirmation, successors in interest, and timing of compliance.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB recently issued a final rule updating technical aspects of the upcoming periodic statement requirements for borrowers in bankruptcy under Regulation Z.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgage Servicing Bankruptcy Consumer Finance Regulation Z Regulation X

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  • California appellate court says mortgage servicers can be debt collectors under Rosenthal Act

    State Issues

    On March 13, a California appellate court held that a mortgage servicer that engages in debt collection activities may be considered a “debt collector” under California’s Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Rosenthal Act). The decision results from a class action lawsuit alleging that the mortgage servicer made hundreds of phone calls demanding mortgage payments that had already been paid or were not yet due, including making calls at inconvenient times throughout the day and using threats of negative credit reporting and foreclosure. The class action suit alleged that the mortgage servicer’s activity violated the Rosenthal Act and the California’s Unfair Competition Law. The trial court sustained the mortgage servicer’s demurrer to the plaintiff’s complaint, concluding that servicing a mortgage is not a form of collecting consumer debts. In reversing the trial court’s decision, the appellate court held that, although the language in the Rosenthal Act was ambiguous with regard to mortgage debt servicing, it should be “construed broadly in favor of protecting the public,” and thus mortgage lenders and mortgage servicers can be considered “debt collectors” within the law’s purview. The appellate court acknowledged a split among California federal courts on the issue.

    State Issues Courts Debt Collection Mortgage Servicing

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  • CFPB issues final rule on periodic statements during bankruptcy

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 8, the CFPB issued a final rule updating technical aspects of the upcoming periodic statement requirements for borrowers in bankruptcy under Regulation Z. The Bureau adopted the proposed rule, released in October 2017, without revision (previously covered by InfoBytes here). Specifically, the final rule changes the transition rules for borrowers who enter or leave bankruptcy by replacing the previous single-billing-cycle exemption with a single-statement exemption for the next periodic statement or coupon book that a servicer would otherwise have to provide, regardless of when in the billing cycle the triggering event occurs. The Bureau also added new commentary to clarify the operation of the single-statement exemption. The rule is effective April 19. 

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgage Servicing Bankruptcy Consumer Finance Regulation Z

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  • 5th Circuit affirms dismissal of claims against bank but not Fannie Mae in foreclosure suit

    Courts

    On February 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued an opinion in a foreclosure dispute ruling that a lower court wrongly dismissed a breach of contract claim against Fannie Mae but was correct in dismissing the claim against a national bank that serviced the loan (bank). According to the opinion, a group of companies and investors (plaintiffs/appellants) constructed a low-income housing program (earning low income housing tax credits) through the financing of a loan by one of the companies secured by a deed of trust later assigned to Fannie Mae and serviced by the bank. When the plaintiffs/appellants defaulted on the loan, Fannie Mae accelerated the note and instituted non-judicial foreclosure proceedings pursuant to the deed; however, the plaintiffs/appellants alleged that some of the notices of acceleration and foreclosure were not received, and when the foreclosure sale proceeded and the IRS “recaptured” the tax credits earned on the project, the plaintiffs/appellants brought suit against Fannie Mae and the bank for, among other things, breach of contract based on the deed of trust and wrongful foreclosure. After granting a motion for rehearing, the lower court granted the bank’s motion for summary judgment, stating it did not breach a contract because it was not a party to the deed of trust. The lower court also dismissed the breach of contract claims against Fannie Mae and the bank, holding that because the plaintiffs/appellants defaulted on the deed of trust, they had no standing to sue based on a breach of that agreement.

    In affirming in part and reversing in part, the three-judge panel determined that although the bank was the loan servicer at the time of default, “once Fannie Mae was notified of default, Fannie Mae became the loan servicer” and therefore the “primary point of contact.” Therefore, “[b]ecause the only claim on appeal is for breach of contract based on the [d]eed of [t]rust, and [the bank] was never a party to the [d]eed of [t]rust, [the bank] has no liability.” However, concerning the breach of contract against Fannie Mae for failing to serve notice of foreclosure to appellants, the panel reversed the lower court’s decision, stating that this particular breach “exists as a stand-alone cause of action,” separate from a claim of wrongful foreclosure. Further, the “obligation to give notice of foreclosure would not even arise unless and until the [plaintiffs/appellants] were in default under the note.” The 5th Circuit remanded the case back to the lower court for review.

    Courts Appellate Fifth Circuit Foreclosure Fannie Mae Mortgages Mortgage Servicing

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  • Virginia district judge holds RESPA early intervention requirements confer private right of action

    Courts

    On February 20, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia ruled that the early intervention requirements of RESPA allow for a private right of action to pursue claims against loan servicers. According to the opinion, consumers filed a complaint against a mortgage servicer for allegedly violating RESPA’s early intervention requirements under Regulation X, Section 1024.39, which require the servicer to “establish or make good faith efforts to establish live contact with a delinquent borrower not later than the 36th day of the borrower’s delinquency” and promptly inform the borrower of potential loss mitigation options. The servicer filed a motion to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim, arguing that Section 1024.39 does not provide a private right of action. In denying the motion to dismiss, the court concluded that the CFPB adopted Section 1024.39 pursuant to Section 6 of RESPA, which expressly provides a private right of action and therefore, Section 1024.39 had been intended to convey a private right of action as well.

    Courts RESPA Mortgages State Issues Mortgage Servicing Loss Mitigation

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  • Fannie and Freddie update charge-off recommendations in servicing guides

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On February 14, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2018-01 which, in addition to other items, updates the requirements for servicer charge-off recommendations, as directed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). According to Fannie Mae’s announcement, effective August 1, a servicer may submit a request to cease collection efforts and charge off a delinquent loan when either (i) a servicer deems the debt uncollectable and all appropriate measures to collect on the debt have been exhausted; or (ii) for certain mortgage loans, a foreclosure sale cannot be completed and at least one situation outlined in section D1-1-02 of the Servicing Guide applies. Freddie Mac also issued Bulletin 2018-2, which covers similar policy changes. According to both announcements, the change in charge-off policies reflects FHFA’s desire to avoid “neighborhood blight” for vacant properties.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Mortgage Servicing Servicing Guide

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  • Massachusetts AG fines nonbank for alleged mortgage servicing concerns

    Lending

    On January 30, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a settlement with a nonbank mortgage servicer to resolve allegations concerning unfair and deceptive mortgage modifications made by the servicer that put borrowers at a heightened risk of foreclosure. According to the state’s press release, in making modifications, the servicer allegedly violated Massachusetts’ Act Preventing Unlawful and Unnecessary Foreclosures (the “Act”), which offers foreclosure protections to borrowers, including requiring “creditors to make a good faith effort to avoid foreclosure for borrowers whose mortgage loans have unfair subprime terms.”  Specifically, the AG’s office found that the servicer had violated the Act by offering “unfair and deceptive short-term, interest-only loan modifications” to borrowers without considering the borrowers’ ability to repay. In support of claim against the servicer, the Massachusetts AG pointed to the fact that “[a]fter one or two years, the monthly payments on those modifications ballooned to an amount higher” than what the borrower was paying when the default originally occurred. This practice, Healy stated, increased the risk of foreclosure and thus violated the Act. According to the AG’s press release, in addition to providing $500,000 in restitution to certain borrowers affected by foreclosures, the servicer is also required to provide “millions of dollars” in principal reductions to affected borrowers.

    Lending State Attorney General State Issues Mortgage Servicing Foreclosure Mortgages

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