Federal, State Agencies Issue Joint Statement Encouraging ‘Flexibility’ with COVID-Impacted Homeowners
Federal and state regulatory agencies on Friday issued a statement conceding the need for regulatory flexibility as mortgage servicers work with struggling homeowners affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The statement (https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/pressreleases/files/bcreg20200403a1.pdf) clarifies that the agencies “do not intend to take supervisory or enforcement action against mortgage servicers for delays in sending certain early intervention and loss mitigation notices and taking certain actions relating to loss mitigation set out in the mortgage servicing rules, provided that servicers are making good faith efforts to provide these notices and take these actions within a reasonable time.”
To further enable short-term payment forbearance programs or short-term repayment plans, mortgage servicers offering these programs or plans will not have to provide an acknowledgement notice within five days of receipt of an incomplete application, provided the servicer sends the acknowledgment notice before the end of the forbearance or repayment period.
The guidance also reminds servicers that there is existing flexibility in the rules with respect to the content of certain notices. Finally, to assist servicers experiencing high call volumes from consumers seeking help, the policy statement also confirms that the agencies “do not intend to take supervisory or enforcement action against mortgage servicers for delays in sending annual escrow statements, provided that servicers are making good faith efforts to provide these statements within a reasonable time.”
The Mortgage Bankers Association and other industry trade groups have been calling for such regulatory flexibility as they handle large volumes of requests from homeowners seeking forbearance and other relief measures.
“The policy statement and guidance issued today will facilitate mortgage servicers’ ability to place consumers in short-term payment forbearance programs such as the one established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act),” the agencies said.
Under the CARES Act, borrowers in a federally backed mortgage loan experiencing a financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 pandemic, can request forbearance by making a request to their mortgage servicer and affirming that they are experiencing a financial hardship during the COVID–19 pandemic. In response, servicers must provide a CARES Act forbearance, that allows borrowers to defer their mortgage payments for up to 180-days and possibly longer.
The agencies are the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Conference of State Bank Supervisors; Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.; National Credit Union Administration; and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.