Comment for 1002.7 - Rules Concerning Extensions of Credit
7(a) Individual accounts.
1. Open-end credit - authorized user. A creditor may not require a creditworthy applicant seeking an individual credit account to provide additional signatures. But the creditor may condition the designation of an authorized user by the account holder on the authorized user's becoming contractually liable for the account, as long as the creditor does not differentiate on any prohibited basis in imposing this requirement.
2. Open-end credit - choice of authorized user. A creditor that permits an account holder to designate an authorized user may not restrict this designation on a prohibited basis. For example, if the creditor allows the designation of spouses as authorized users, the creditor may not refuse to accept a non-spouse as an authorized user.
3. Overdraft authority on transaction accounts. If a transaction account (such as a checking account or NOW account) includes an overdraft line of credit, the creditor may require that all persons authorized to draw on the transaction account assume liability for any overdraft.
7(b) Designation of name.
1. Single name on account. A creditor may require that joint applicants on an account designate a single name for purposes of administering the account and that a single name be embossed on any credit cards issued on the account. But the creditor may not require that the name be the husband's name. (See § 1002.10 for rules governing the furnishing of credit history on accounts held by spouses.)
7(c) Action concerning existing open-end accounts.
1. Termination coincidental with marital status change. When an account holder's marital status changes, a creditor generally may not terminate the account unless it has evidence that the account holder is now unable or unwilling to repay. But the creditor may terminate an account on which both spouses are jointly liable, even if the action coincides with a change in marital status, when one or both spouses:
i. Repudiate responsibility for future charges on the joint account.
ii. Request separate accounts in their own names.
iii. Request that the joint account be closed.
2. Updating information. A creditor may periodically request updated information from applicants but may not use events related to a prohibited basis - such as an applicant's retirement or reaching a particular age, or a change in name or marital status - to trigger such a request.
1. Procedure pending reapplication. A creditor may require a reapplication from an account holder, even when there is no evidence of unwillingness or inability to repay, if (1) the credit was based on the qualifications of a person who is no longer available to support the credit and (2) the creditor has information indicating that the account holder's income may be insufficient to support the credit. While a reapplication is pending, the creditor must allow the account holder full access to the account under the existing contract terms. The creditor may specify a reasonable time period within which the account holder must submit the required information.
7(d) Signature of spouse or other person.
1. Qualified applicant. The signature rules ensure that qualified applicants are able to obtain credit in their own names. Thus, when an applicant requests individual credit, a creditor generally may not require the signature of another person unless the creditor has first determined that the applicant alone does not qualify for the credit requested.
2. Unqualified applicant. When an applicant requests individual credit but does not meet a creditor's standards, the creditor may require a cosigner, guarantor, endorser, or similar party - but cannot require that it be the spouse. (See commentary to §§ 1002.7(d)(5) and (6).)
1. Signature of another person. It is impermissible for a creditor to require an applicant who is individually creditworthy to provide a cosigner - even if the creditor applies the requirement without regard to sex, marital status, or any other prohibited basis. (But see comment 7(d)(6)-1 concerning guarantors of closely held corporations.)
2. Joint applicant. The term “joint applicant” refers to someone who applies contemporaneously with the applicant for shared or joint credit. It does not refer to someone whose signature is required by the creditor as a condition for granting the credit requested.
3. Evidence of joint application. A person's intent to be a joint applicant must be evidenced at the time of application. Signatures on a promissory note may not be used to show intent to apply for joint credit. On the other hand, signatures or initials on a credit application affirming applicants' intent to apply for joint credit may be used to establish intent to apply for joint credit. (See appendix B.) The method used to establish intent must be distinct from the means used by individuals to affirm the accuracy of information. For example, signatures on a joint financial statement affirming the veracity of information are not sufficient to establish intent to apply for joint credit.
1. Jointly owned property. If an applicant requests unsecured credit, does not own sufficient separate property, and relies on joint property to establish creditworthiness, the creditor must value the applicant's interest in the jointly owned property. A creditor may not request that a nonapplicant joint owner sign any instrument as a condition of the credit extension unless the applicant's interest does not support the amount and terms of the credit sought.
i. Valuation of applicant's interest. In determining the value of an applicant's interest in jointly owned property, a creditor may consider factors such as the form of ownership and the property's susceptibility to attachment, execution, severance, or partition; the value of the applicant's interest after such action; and the cost associated with the action. This determination must be based on the existing form of ownership, and not on the possibility of a subsequent change. For example, in determining whether a married applicant's interest in jointly owned property is sufficient to satisfy the creditor's standards of creditworthiness for individual credit, a creditor may not consider that the applicant's separate property could be transferred into tenancy by the entirety after consummation. Similarly, a creditor may not consider the possibility that the couple may divorce. Accordingly, a creditor may not require the signature of the non-applicant spouse in these or similar circumstances.
ii. Other options to support credit. If the applicant's interest in jointly owned property does not support the amount and terms of credit sought, the creditor may offer the applicant other options to qualify for the extension of credit. For example:
A. Providing a co-signer or other party (§ 1002.7(d)(5));
B. Requesting that the credit be granted on a secured basis (§ 1002.7(d)(4)); or
C. Providing the signature of the joint owner on an instrument that ensures access to the property in the event of the applicant's death or default, but does not impose personal liability unless necessary under state law (such as a limited guarantee). A creditor may not routinely require, however, that a joint owner sign an instrument (such as a quitclaim deed) that would result in the forfeiture of the joint owner's interest in the property.
2. Need for signature - reasonable belief. A creditor's reasonable belief as to what instruments need to be signed by a person other than the applicant should be supported by a thorough review of pertinent statutory and decisional law or an opinion of the state attorney general.
1. Residency. In assessing the creditworthiness of a person who applies for credit in a community property state, a creditor may assume that the applicant is a resident of the state unless the applicant indicates otherwise.
1. Creation of enforceable lien. Some state laws require that both spouses join in executing any instrument by which real property is encumbered. If an applicant offers such property as security for credit, a creditor may require the applicant's spouse to sign the instruments necessary to create a valid security interest in the property. The creditor may not require the spouse to sign the note evidencing the credit obligation if signing only the mortgage or other security agreement is sufficient to make the property available to satisfy the debt in the event of default. However, if under state law both spouses must sign the note to create an enforceable lien, the creditor may require the signatures.
2. Need for signature - reasonable belief. Generally, a signature to make the secured property available will only be needed on a security agreement. A creditor's reasonable belief that, to ensure access to the property, the spouse's signature is needed on an instrument that imposes personal liability should be supported by a thorough review of pertinent statutory and decisional law or an opinion of the state attorney general.
3. Integrated instruments. When a creditor uses an integrated instrument that combines the note and the security agreement, the spouse cannot be asked to sign the integrated instrument if the signature is only needed to grant a security interest. But the spouse could be asked to sign an integrated instrument that makes clear - for example, by a legend placed next to the spouse's signature - that the spouse's signature is only to grant a security interest and that signing the instrument does not impose personal liability.
1. Qualifications of additional parties. In establishing guidelines for eligibility of guarantors, cosigners, or similar additional parties, a creditor may restrict the applicant's choice of additional parties but may not discriminate on the basis of sex, marital status, or any other prohibited basis. For example, the creditor could require that the additional party live in the creditor's market area.
2. Reliance on income of another person - individual credit. An applicant who requests individual credit relying on the income of another person (including a spouse in a non-community property state) may be required to provide the signature of the other person to make the income available to pay the debt. In community property states, the signature of a spouse may be required if the applicant relies on the spouse's separate income. If the applicant relies on the spouse's future earnings that as a matter of state law cannot be characterized as community property until earned, the creditor may require the spouse's signature, but need not do so - even if it is the creditor's practice to require the signature when an applicant relies on the future earnings of a person other than a spouse. (See § 1002.6(c) on consideration of state property laws.)
3. Renewals. If the borrower's creditworthiness is reevaluated when a credit obligation is renewed, the creditor must determine whether an additional party is still warranted and, if not warranted, release the additional party.
1. Guarantees. A guarantee on an extension of credit is part of a credit transaction and therefore subject to the regulation. A creditor may require the personal guarantee of the partners, directors, or officers of a business, and the shareholders of a closely held corporation, even if the business or corporation is creditworthy. The requirement must be based on the guarantor's relationship with the business or corporation, however, and not on a prohibited basis. For example, a creditor may not require guarantees only for women-owned or minority-owned businesses. Similarly, a creditor may not require guarantees only of the married officers of a business or the married shareholders of a closely held corporation.
2. Spousal guarantees. The rules in § 1002.7(d) bar a creditor from requiring the signature of a guarantor's spouse just as they bar the creditor from requiring the signature of an applicant's spouse. For example, although a creditor may require all officers of a closely held corporation to personally guarantee a corporate loan, the creditor may not automatically require that spouses of married officers also sign the guarantee. If an evaluation of the financial circumstances of an officer indicates that an additional signature is necessary, however, the creditor may require the signature of another person in appropriate circumstances in accordance with § 1002.7(d)(2).
1. Differences in terms. Differences in the availability, rates, and other terms on which credit-related casualty insurance or credit life, health, accident, or disability insurance is offered or provided to an applicant does not violate Regulation B.
2. Insurance information. A creditor may obtain information about an applicant's age, sex, or marital status for insurance purposes. The information may only be used for determining eligibility and premium rates for insurance, however, and not in making the credit decision.