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Posts from January 2013

Your two cents on student cards and bank accounts

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College is a time when many of us signed up for our first bank account. Often schools set up agreements with financial companies to offer cards and accounts to their students. Today, some students can use their student ID card to pay for everything from washing a load of laundry to shopping online.

With credit cards, financial companies have to publicly disclose these types of agreements with schools. However, we know less about these arrangements when it comes to other things, like debit cards to access your student loan funds and student checking accounts. We’ve heard from students that sometimes these arrangements are a convenience, while other times we’ve heard that they didn’t feel they had a choice. We want to see if students are getting a good deal and what schools can do to help them through the process.

That’s why we need your help. We want to hear about your experience with financial products designed for college students.

Email us at CFPB_StudentsFedReg@cfpb.gov by March 18 to tell us about any aspect of your experience .

Today, we’re launching an initiative on student cards and bank accounts and we want your input. We’ve published a Notice and Request for Information Regarding Financial Products Marketed to Students Enrolled in Institutions of Higher Education in the Federal Register. The title might sound a little formal, but the reality is simple: we want to hear from you.

We’ll use your comments to work with school officials on ways they can make sure that schools and students are getting off on the right foot when it comes to managing their money during college. We’ll also publish a summary for everyone who contributes and let you know how you can continue to help make sure the market is working for everyone.

Tell us your two cents today, and learn more about the CFPB’s work for students.

Temporarily delaying the implementation of our international remittance transfer rule

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Updated on August 8, 2013: The remittance rule goes into effect October 28, 2013. Visit the remittance rule page for additional information regarding the rule including the most recent updates.

In November, we announced that we would be proposing to make some limited amendments to our new international remittance transfer rule. We also announced that we would be proposing to delay when the rule would take effect until ninety days after we finalized the amendment. Last month, we formally issued our proposal.

The remittance rule was slated to go into effect on February 7, 2013. Today, we are temporarily delaying the effective date of our remittance rule. Thus, the rule will not take effect on February 7. A new effective date will be announced later this year.

The changes in our December 31, 2012 proposal are designed to preserve the new consumer protections while helping remittance transfer providers comply with the rule. The proposal also includes a provision to extend the effective date until 90 days after we issue a revised final rule.

You may submit comments on the remainder of the proposal, including what the new effective date of the rule should be, on or before January 30, 2013. We’ll keep our remittance web page updated with the new effective date when we finalize the substantive issues in our proposal.

New rules, fewer runarounds for mortgage borrowers

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When you take out a mortgage loan to buy a home, you trust the mortgage servicing industry to work. Mortgage servicers are responsible for sending you bills, processing your payments, answering your questions, and addressing any problems that may arise. When servicers fall down on the job, that can have serious consequences for consumers. People who are behind on their mortgages may not know what options they have. Bills may show up with unexpected and expensive charges. People who need more information may not be able to get it in a timely manner.

Today we are issuing two new rules to make this market work better for America’s homeowners. Director Cordray announced them this morning in Atlanta.

When we proposed these rules back in August, we said we wanted to put the service back in mortgage servicing. The two final rules we’re issuing today are designed to do just that. The result of these new rules will be a market with fewer surprises and runarounds for mortgage borrowers.

Here’s some of what’s new:

Space for consumers to pursue alternatives to foreclosure

Borrowers fall behind on mortgage payments for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they can make up these payments quickly. Sometimes they need to figure out an alternative payment strategy. Sometimes they face the loss of their homes. But in any of these circumstances, they should know what avenues are available to them.

Restrictions on dual tracking: Dual tracking is the term used when servicers move forward on a foreclosure at the same time they’re working with the borrower to avoid foreclosure. Many consumers report that they have discovered too late that they were foreclosed on by the same servicer they were working with to find an alternative. Under the new rules, servicers cannot begin foreclosure proceedings against you until your payments are 120 days behind.

Pursuing modifications and other loss mitigation: The dual tracking restrictions give you time to assess your situation and apply for a modification or other option that may be available to help you. If you apply within the 120-day window, the servicer cannot begin foreclosure until your application has been addressed. If you and your servicer come to an agreement on an option, the servicer cannot start foreclosure proceedings unless you don’t uphold your end of the agreement. Even if you apply after you’re already facing foreclosure, your servicer cannot complete the foreclosure while your application is pending so long as you submit it at least 38 days before the foreclosure sale is scheduled.

Regular, clear communication from servicers

Who services your mortgage, how to get in touch with them, and what you owe should not be mysterious. The new rules include requirements to improve the communication from servicers to mortgage borrowers.

A periodic statement for homeowners: One of the new requirements defines a periodic statement for residential mortgages. The statement comes every billing cycle and covers basics like an explanation of the amount due, payment and transaction history, account information, and contact information for the servicer. It doesn’t apply to some mortgage types (like reverse mortgages), but it does apply to most home purchases and refinancings. The servicer does not have to provide you with a monthly statement if you have a fixed rate loan and pay with a coupon book, but the information that would be on the monthly statement needs to be available to you.

Early outreach when a borrower falls behind: If you become delinquent, the servicer has to make a good faith effort to reach out to you. The servicer also has to assign people to your case and make those people available by phone so you have a clear and consistent point of contact.

Warnings before interest rate adjustments: If you take out an adjustable rate mortgage, the servicer must notify you about the first interest rate adjustment at least seven months in advance of when you owe a payment at the adjusted interest rate. The servicer has to provide an estimate of the new interest rate and payment amount, alternatives available to you, and how to access a HUD-approved mortgage counselor. In addition, for the first interest rate adjustment, and all subsequent rate adjustments that result in a different payment amount, servicers must send you an additional advance notice telling you what your new payment will be.

Managing information and processing payments

Good information and good records: Servicers should provide correct information about mortgage loans, whether that’s to a borrower, an investor, or a court during foreclosure. The new rules require policies and procedures to ensure servicers can provide accurate and timely information about the mortgage. They must keep records on all mortgages they service for a year after someone pays off a mortgage or after someone else takes over servicing the mortgage.

Crediting payments in a timely manner: When you make a full payment, the servicer must credit it to your account as of that day. If you request a payoff statement in writing, the servicer has seven business days to issue the statement.

Error resolution: When there’s a mistake, you should be able to get it fixed in a timely manner. If you write to your servicer to address what you believe to be an error, the servicer should reply in a timely manner. The new rules set timelines and procedures for servicers to investigate and correct errors.

Force-placed insurance

Force-placed insurance is insurance that the servicer buys on the property when the borrower no longer has property insurance. Without insurance, whoever holds the mortgage would be at risk if the house were to be damaged or destroyed. But the borrower may actually be responsible for the costs of the force-placed insurance policy. This has led to unexpected or duplicate expenses for people who already have their own insurance policies. Under the new rules, servicers need a reasonable basis to believe borrowers lack their own insurance, and they must determine this on a case-by-case basis. The servicer also has to notify the borrower before purchasing the force-placed insurance policy and annually before renewing the policy.

These rules take effect early in 2014, along with three of the rules we issued last week. We’ve developed a page for the new rules where you can learn more about the new rules, including a detailed summary. Watch the page for new resources to help you understand the rules and their implications in the days to come.

See you soon Atlanta, GA!

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Join us for a field hearing on mortgage policy on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, featuring remarks from CFPB Director Richard Cordray, as well as testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public.

11 a.m. EST
Rialto Center for the Arts
Georgia State University
80 Forsyth Street
Atlanta, GA

To RSVP, email cfpb.events@cfpb.gov with:

  • Your full name
  • Your organizational affiliation (if any)

Assuring consumers have access to mortgages they can trust

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Today, we’re issuing one of our most important rules to date, the Ability-to-Repay rule. It’s designed to assure the reliability of
mortgages – making sure that lenders offer mortgages that consumers can actually afford to pay back. This is a simple, obvious principle that needs to be cemented in the housing market.

In the run-up to the financial crisis, we had a housing market that was reckless about lending money. Lenders thought they could make money on a loan even if the consumer could not pay back that loan, either by banking on rising housing prices or by off-loading the mortgage into the secondary market. This encouraged broad indifference to the ability of many consumers to repay loans, which dramatically increased mortgage delinquencies and rates of foreclosures.

Earlier this year, we heard from a California man named Henry, who was in the process of foreclosure. He was desperate. During the overheated years, a lender sold him a mortgage valued at more than half a million dollars. This was far more than he could afford on his annual salary of less than $50,000. He said he’d assumed that the lender knew what it was doing when he qualified for such a large loan. He’s now worried not only about losing his home, but about losing his family’s entire future.

Henry is not alone. Unaffordable loans helped cause the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. People across the country were sold unsustainable mortgages. Some may have entered with their eyes open, seeking to ride the wave of rising housing prices, but many were led astray. For many borrowers, it appears that lenders ignored the numbers to get the loan approved. This kind of reckless lending was an endemic problem.

To put it simply: lenders should not set up consumers to fail.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act created broad-based changes to how creditors make loans including new ability-to-repay standards, which we are charged with implementing. Among the features of our new Ability-to-Repay rule:

  • Potential borrowers have to supply financial information, and lenders must verify it;
  • To qualify for a particular loan, a consumer has to have sufficient assets or income to pay back the loan; and
  • Lenders will have to determine the consumer’s ability to repay both the principal and the interest over the long term − not just during an introductory period when the rate may be lower.

In addition to the Ability-to-Repay rule, today we are also issuing a proposal for potential adjustments. There are two key parts to the proposal:

  • First, a proposed exemption for designated non-profit creditors and homeownership stabilization programs, as well as certain Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Federal agency refinancing programs. These programs generally appear to be already subject to their own specialized underwriting criteria, and they are designed to help consumers refinance into a more affordable home loan.
  • Second, a proposed a new category for certain loans made and held in portfolio by small creditors, such as small community banks and credit unions, called “Qualified Mortgages.”

Qualified Mortgages are a category of loans where borrowers would be the most protected. They, among other things, cannot have certain risky features like negative-amortization, where the amount owed actually increases for some period because the borrower does not even pay the interest and the unpaid interest gets added to the amount borrowed.

In the wake of the financial crisis, credit is achingly tight. Interest rates are low, but it is hard to qualify for a home mortgage. As the American mortgage market ebbs and flows, we have the duty to protect responsible lending in the housing market for borrowers, lenders, and everyone else who is engaged in the economic life of our country. We have been working hard, and we will continue to work hard, to do just that.

Consumers should be able to trust the American dream of homeownership without worrying about losing the roofs over their heads and the shirts off their backs. The Ability-to-Repay rule will help ensure that lenders and consumers share the same basic financial
incentives – that both of them win when borrowers can afford their loans. With this confidence, consumers can be active participants in the market and choose which of a wide variety of products they believe is best for them.

Today the Bureau also issued rules to strengthen protections for high-cost mortgages.