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Comment for 1002.6 - Rules Concerning Evaluation of Applications

6(a) General rule concerning use of information.

1. General. When evaluating an application for credit, a creditor generally may consider any information obtained. However, a creditor may not consider in its evaluation of creditworthiness any information that it is barred by § 1002.5 from obtaining or from using for any purpose other than to conduct a self-test under § 1002.15.

2. Effects test. The effects test is a judicial doctrine that was developed in a series of employment cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.,) and the burdens of proof for such employment cases were codified by Congress in the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (42 U.S.C. 2000e-2). Congressional intent that this doctrine apply to the credit area is documented in the Senate Report that accompanied H.R. 6516, No. 94-589, pp. 4-5; and in the House Report that accompanied H.R. 6516, No. 94-210, p.5. The Act and regulation may prohibit a creditor practice that is discriminatory in effect because it has a disproportionately negative impact on a prohibited basis, even though the creditor has no intent to discriminate and the practice appears neutral on its face, unless the creditor practice meets a legitimate business need that cannot reasonably be achieved as well by means that are less disparate in their impact. For example, requiring that applicants have income in excess of a certain amount to qualify for an overdraft line of credit could mean that women and minority applicants will be rejected at a higher rate than men and nonminority applicants. If there is a demonstrable relationship between the income requirement and creditworthiness for the level of credit involved, however, use of the income standard would likely be permissible.

6(b) Specific rules concerning use of information.

Paragraph 6(b)(1).

1. Prohibited basis - special purpose credit. In a special purpose credit program, a creditor may consider a prohibited basis to determine whether the applicant possesses a characteristic needed for eligibility. (See § 1002.8.)

Paragraph 6(b)(2).

1. Favoring the elderly. Any system of evaluating creditworthiness may favor a credit applicant who is age 62 or older. A credit program that offers more favorable credit terms to applicants age 62 or older is also permissible; a program that offers more favorable credit terms to applicants at an age lower than 62 is permissible only if it meets the special-purpose credit requirements of § 1002.8.

2. Consideration of age in a credit scoring system. Age may be taken directly into account in a credit scoring system that is “demonstrably and statistically sound,” as defined in § 1002.2(p), with one limitation: Applicants age 62 years or older must be treated at least as favorably as applicants who are under age 62. If age is scored by assigning points to an applicant's age category, elderly applicants must receive the same or a greater number of points as the most favored class of nonelderly applicants.

i. Age-split scorecards. Some credit systems segment the population and use different scorecards based on the age of an applicant. In such a system, one card may cover a narrow age range (for example, applicants in their twenties or younger) who are evaluated under attributes predictive for that age group. A second card may cover all other applicants, who are evaluated under the attributes predictive for that broader class. When a system uses a card covering a wide age range that encompasses elderly applicants, the credit scoring system is not deemed to score age. Thus, the system does not raise the issue of assigning a negative factor or value to the age of elderly applicants. But if a system segments the population by age into multiple scorecards, and includes elderly applicants in a narrower age range, the credit scoring system does score age. To comply with the Act and regulation in such a case, the creditor must ensure that the system does not assign a negative factor or value to the age of elderly applicants as a class.

3. Consideration of age in a judgmental system. In a judgmental system, defined in § 1002.2(t), a creditor may not decide whether to extend credit or set the terms and conditions of credit based on age or information related exclusively to age. Age or age-related information may be considered only in evaluating other “pertinent elements of creditworthiness” that are drawn from the particular facts and circumstances concerning the applicant. For example, a creditor may not reject an application or terminate an account because the applicant is 60 years old. But a creditor that uses a judgmental system may relate the applicant's age to other information about the applicant that the creditor considers in evaluating creditworthiness. As the following examples illustrate, the evaluation must be made in an individualized, case-by-case manner:

i. A creditor may consider the applicant's occupation and length of time to retirement to ascertain whether the applicant's income (including retirement income) will support the extension of credit to its maturity.

ii. A creditor may consider the adequacy of any security offered when the term of the credit extension exceeds the life expectancy of the applicant and the cost of realizing on the collateral could exceed the applicant's equity. An elderly applicant might not qualify for a 5 percent down, 30-year mortgage loan but might qualify with a larger downpayment or a shorter loan maturity.

iii. A creditor may consider the applicant's age to assess the significance of length of employment (a young applicant may have just entered the job market) or length of time at an address (an elderly applicant may recently have retired and moved from a long-term residence).

4. Consideration of age in a reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage is a home-secured loan in which the borrower receives payments from the creditor, and does not become obligated to repay these amounts (other than in the case of default) until the borrower dies, moves permanently from the home, or transfers title to the home, or upon a specified maturity date. Disbursements to the borrower under a reverse mortgage typically are determined by considering the value of the borrower's home, the current interest rate, and the borrower's life expectancy. A reverse mortgage program that requires borrowers to be age 62 or older is permissible under § 1002.6(b)(2)(iv). In addition, under § 1002.6(b)(2)(iii), a creditor may consider a borrower's age to evaluate a pertinent element of creditworthiness, such as the amount of the credit or monthly payments that the borrower will receive, or the estimated repayment date.

5. Consideration of age in a combined system. A creditor using a credit scoring system that qualifies as “empirically derived” under § 1002.2(p) may consider other factors (such as a credit report or the applicant's cash flow) on a judgmental basis. Doing so will not negate the classification of the credit scoring component of the combined system as “demonstrably and statistically sound.” While age could be used in the credit scoring portion, however, in the judgmental portion age may not be considered directly. It may be used only for the purpose of determining a “pertinent element of creditworthiness.” (See comment 6(b)(2)-3.)

6. Consideration of public assistance. When considering income derived from a public assistance program, a creditor may take into account, for example:

i. The length of time an applicant will likely remain eligible to receive such income.

ii. Whether the applicant will continue to qualify for benefits based on the status of the applicant's dependents (as in the case of Temporary Aid to Needy Families, or social security payments to a minor).

iii. Whether the creditor can attach or garnish the income to assure payment of the debt in the event of default.

Paragraph 6(b)(5).

1. Consideration of an individual applicant. A creditor must evaluate income derived from part-time employment, alimony, child support, separate maintenance payments, retirement benefits, or public assistance on an individual basis, not on the basis of aggregate statistics; and must assess its reliability or unreliability by analyzing the applicant's actual circumstances, not by analyzing statistical measures derived from a group.

2. Payments consistently made. In determining the likelihood of consistent payments of alimony, child support, or separate maintenance, a creditor may consider factors such as whether payments are received pursuant to a written agreement or court decree; the length of time that the payments have been received; whether the payments are regularly received by the applicant; the availability of court or other procedures to compel payment; and the creditworthiness of the payor, including the credit history of the payor when it is available to the creditor.

3. Consideration of income.

i. A creditor need not consider income at all in evaluating creditworthiness. If a creditor does consider income, there are several acceptable methods, whether in a credit scoring or a judgmental system:

A. A creditor may score or take into account the total sum of all income stated by the applicant without taking steps to evaluate the income for reliability.

B. A creditor may evaluate each component of the applicant's income, and then score or take into account income determined to be reliable separately from other income; or the creditor may disregard that portion of income that is not reliable when it aggregates reliable income.

C. A creditor that does not evaluate all income components for reliability must treat as reliable any component of protected income that is not evaluated.

ii. In considering the separate components of an applicant's income, the creditor may not automatically discount or exclude from consideration any protected income. Any discounting or exclusion must be based on the applicant's actual circumstances.

4. Part-time employment, sources of income. A creditor may score or take into account the fact that an applicant has more than one source of earned income - a full-time and a part-time job or two part-time jobs. A creditor may also score or treat earned income from a secondary source differently than earned income from a primary source. The creditor may not, however, score or otherwise take into account the number of sources for income such as retirement income, social security, supplemental security income, and alimony. Nor may the creditor treat negatively the fact that an applicant's only earned income is derived from, for example, a part-time job.

Paragraph 6(b)(6).

1. Types of credit references. A creditor may restrict the types of credit history and credit references that it will consider, provided that the restrictions are applied to all credit applicants without regard to sex, marital status, or any other prohibited basis. On the applicant's request, however, a creditor must consider credit information not reported through a credit bureau when the information relates to the same types of credit references and history that the creditor would consider if reported through a credit bureau.

Paragraph 6(b)(7).

1. National origin - immigration status. The applicant's immigration status and ties to the community (such as employment and continued residence in the area) could have a bearing on a creditor's ability to obtain repayment. Accordingly, the creditor may consider immigration status and differentiate, for example, between a noncitizen who is a long-time resident with permanent resident status and a noncitizen who is temporarily in this country on a student visa.

2. National origin - citizenship. A denial of credit on the ground that an applicant is not a United States citizen is not per se discrimination based on national origin.

Paragraph 6(b)(8).

1. Prohibited basis - marital status. A creditor may consider the marital status of an applicant or joint applicant for the purpose of ascertaining the creditor's rights and remedies applicable to the particular extension of credit. For example, in a secured transaction involving real property, a creditor could take into account whether state law gives the applicant's spouse an interest in the property being offered as collateral.