Comment for 1026.34 - Prohibited Acts or Practices in Connection With High-Cost Mortgages
34(a) Prohibited Acts or Practices for High-Cost Mortgages
34(a)(1) Home-Improvement Contracts
1. Joint payees. If a creditor pays a contractor with an instrument jointly payable to the contractor and the consumer, the instrument must name as payee each consumer who is primarily obligated on the note.
34(a)(2) Notice to Assignee
1. Subsequent sellers or assignors. Any person, whether or not the original creditor, that sells or assigns a mortgage subject to § 1026.32 must furnish the notice of potential liability to the purchaser or assignee.
2. Format. While the notice of potential liability need not be in any particular format, the notice must be prominent. Placing it on the face of the note, such as with a stamp, is one means of satisfying the prominence requirement.
3. Assignee liability. Pursuant to section 131(d) of the Act, the Act's general holder-in-due course protections do not apply to purchasers and assignees of loans covered by § 1026.32. For such loans, a purchaser's or other assignee's liability for all claims and defenses that the consumer could assert against the creditor is not limited to violations of the Act.
34(a)(3) Refinancings Within One-Year Period
1. In the borrower's interest. The determination of whether or not a refinancing covered by § 1026.34(a)(3) is in the borrower's interest is based on the totality of the circumstances, at the time the credit is extended. A written statement by the borrower that “this loan is in my interest” alone does not meet this standard.
i. A refinancing would be in the borrower's interest if needed to meet the borrower's “bona fide personal financial emergency” (see generally § 1026.23(e) and § 1026.31(c)(1)(iii)).
ii. In connection with a refinancing that provides additional funds to the borrower, in determining whether a loan is in the borrower's interest consideration should be given to whether the loan fees and charges are commensurate with the amount of new funds advanced, and whether the real estate-related charges are bona fide and reasonable in amount (see generally § 1026.4(c)(7)).
2. Application of the one-year refinancing prohibition to creditors and assignees. The prohibition in § 1026.34(a)(3) applies where an extension of credit subject to § 1026.32 is refinanced into another loan subject to § 1026.32. The prohibition is illustrated by the following examples. Assume that Creditor A makes a loan subject to § 1026.32 on January 15, 2003, secured by a first lien; this loan is assigned to Creditor B on February 15, 2003:
i. Creditor A is prohibited from refinancing the January 2003 loan (or any other loan subject to § 1026.32 to the same borrower) into a loan subject to § 1026.32, until January 15, 2004. Creditor B is restricted until January 15, 2004, or such date prior to January 15, 2004 that Creditor B ceases to hold or service the loan. During the prohibition period, Creditors A and B may make a subordinate lien loan that does not refinance a loan subject to § 1026.32. Assume that on April 1, 2003, Creditor A makes but does not assign a second-lien loan subject to § 1026.32. In that case, Creditor A would be prohibited from refinancing either the first-lien or second-lien loans (or any other loans to that borrower subject to § 1026.32) into another loan subject to § 1026.32 until April 1, 2004.
ii. The loan made by Creditor A on January 15, 2003 (and assigned to Creditor B) may be refinanced by Creditor C at any time. If Creditor C refinances this loan on March 1, 2003 into a new loan subject to § 1026.32, Creditor A is prohibited from refinancing the loan made by Creditor C (or any other loan subject to § 1026.32 to the same borrower) into another loan subject to § 1026.32 until January 15, 2004. Creditor C is similarly prohibited from refinancing any loan subject to § 1026.32 to that borrower into another until March 1, 2004. (The limitations of § 1026.34(a)(3) no longer apply to Creditor B after Creditor C refinanced the January 2003 loan and Creditor B ceased to hold or service the loan.)
Paragraph 34(a)(4) Repayment Ability for High-Cost Mortgages
1. Application of repayment ability rule. The § 1026.34(a)(4) prohibition against making loans without regard to consumers' repayment ability applies to open-end, high-cost mortgages. The § 1026.43 repayment ability provisions apply to closed-end, high-cost mortgages. Accordingly, in connection with a closed-end, high-cost mortgage, § 1026.34(a)(4) requires a creditor to comply with the repayment ability requirements set forth in § 1026.43.
2. General prohibition. Section 1026.34(a)(4) prohibits a creditor from extending credit under a high-cost, open-end credit plan based on the value of the consumer's collateral without regard to the consumer's repayment ability as of account opening, including the consumer's current and reasonably expected income, employment, assets other than the collateral, current obligations, and property tax and insurance obligations. A creditor may base its determination of repayment ability on current or reasonably expected income from employment or other sources, on assets other than the collateral, or both.
3. Other dwelling-secured obligations. For purposes of § 1026.34(a)(4), current obligations include another credit obligation of which the creditor has knowledge undertaken prior to or at account opening and secured by the same dwelling that secures the high-cost mortgage transaction.
4. Discounted introductory rates and non-amortizing payments. A credit agreement may determine a consumer's initial payments using a temporarily discounted interest rate or permit the consumer to make initial payments that are non-amortizing. In such cases the creditor may determine repayment ability using the assumptions provided in § 1026.34(a)(4)(iv).
5. Repayment ability as of account opening. Section 1026.34(a)(4) prohibits a creditor from disregarding repayment ability based on the facts and circumstances known to the creditor as of account opening. In general, a creditor does not violate this provision if a consumer defaults because of a significant reduction in income (for example, a job loss) or a significant obligation (for example, an obligation arising from a major medical expense) that occurs after account opening. However, if a creditor has knowledge as of account opening of reductions in income (for example, if a consumer's written application states that the consumer plans to retire within twelve months without obtaining new employment, or states that the consumer will transition from full-time to part-time employment), the creditor must consider that information.
6. Income, assets, and employment. Any current or reasonably expected assets or income may be considered by the creditor, except the collateral itself. For example, a creditor may use information about current or expected salary, wages, bonus pay, tips, and commissions. Employment may be full-time, part-time, seasonal, irregular, military, or self-employment. Other sources of income could include interest or dividends; retirement benefits; public assistance; and alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments. A creditor may also take into account assets such as savings accounts or investments that the consumer can or will be able to use.
7. Interaction with Regulation B. Section 1026.34(a)(4) does not require or permit the creditor to make inquiries or verifications that would be prohibited by Regulation B, 12 CFR part 1002.
34(a)(4)(i) Mortgage-Related Obligations
1. Mortgage-related obligations. A creditor must include in its repayment ability analysis the expected property taxes and premiums for mortgage-related insurance required by the creditor as set forth in § 1026.35(b), as well as similar mortgage-related expenses. Similar mortgage-related expenses include homeowners' association dues and condominium or cooperative fees.
34(a)(4)(ii) Verification of Repayment Ability
1. Income and assets relied on. A creditor must verify the income and assets the creditor relies on to evaluate the consumer's repayment ability. For example, if a consumer earns a salary and also states that he or she is paid an annual bonus, but the creditor only relies on the applicant's salary to evaluate repayment ability, the creditor need only verify the salary.
2. Income and assets - co-applicant. If two persons jointly apply for credit and both list income or assets on the application, the creditor must verify repayment ability with respect to both applicants unless the creditor relies only on the income or assets of one of the applicants in determining repayment ability.
3. Expected income. If a creditor relies on expected income, the expectation must be reasonable and it must be verified with third-party documents that provide reasonably reliable evidence of the consumer's expected income. For example, if the creditor relies on an expectation that a consumer will receive an annual bonus, the creditor may verify the basis for that expectation with documents that show the consumer's past annual bonuses and the expected bonus must bear a reasonable relationship to past bonuses. Similarly, if the creditor relies on a consumer's expected salary following the consumer's receipt of an educational degree, the creditor may verify that expectation with a written statement from an employer indicating that the consumer will be employed upon graduation at a specified salary.
1. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form W-2. A creditor may verify a consumer's income using a consumer's IRS Form W-2 (or any subsequent revisions or similar IRS Forms used for reporting wages and tax withholding). The creditor may also use an electronic retrieval service for obtaining the consumer's W-2 information.
2. Tax returns. A creditor may verify a consumer's income or assets using the consumer's tax return. A creditor may also use IRS Form 4506 “Request for Copy of Tax Return,” Form 4506-T “Request for Transcript of Tax Return,” or Form 8821 “Tax Information Authorization” (or any subsequent revisions or similar IRS Forms appropriate for obtaining tax return information directly from the IRS) to verify the consumer's income or assets. The creditor may also use an electronic retrieval service for obtaining tax return information.
3. Other third-party documents that provide reasonably reliable evidence of consumer's income or assets. Creditors may verify income and assets using documents produced by third parties. Creditors may not rely on information provided orally by third parties, but may rely on correspondence from the third party, such as by letter or email. The creditor may rely on any third-party document that provides reasonably reliable evidence of the consumer's income or assets. For example, creditors may verify the consumer's income using receipts from a check-cashing or remittance service, or by obtaining a written statement from the consumer's employer that states the consumer's income.
4. Information specific to the consumer. Creditors must verify a consumer's income or assets using information that is specific to the individual consumer. Creditors may use third-party databases that contain individual-specific data about a consumer's income or assets, such as a third-party database service used by the consumer's employer for the purpose of centralizing income verification requests, so long as the information is reasonably current and accurate. Information about average incomes for the consumer's occupation in the consumer's geographic location or information about average incomes paid by the consumer's employer, however, would not be specific to the individual consumer.
5. Duplicative collection of documentation. A creditor that has made a loan to a consumer and is refinancing or extending new credit to the same consumer need not collect from the consumer a document the creditor previously obtained if the creditor has no information that would reasonably lead the creditor to believe that document has changed since it was initially collected. For example, if the creditor has obtained the consumer's 2006 tax return to make a home purchase loan in May 2007, the creditor may rely on the 2006 tax return if the creditor makes a home equity loan to the same consumer in August 2007. Similarly, if the creditor has obtained the consumer's bank statement for May 2007 in making the first loan, the creditor may rely on that bank statement for that month in making the subsequent loan in August 2007.
1. In general. A credit report may be used to verify current obligations. A credit report, however, might not reflect an obligation that a consumer has listed on an application. The creditor is responsible for considering such an obligation, but the creditor is not required to independently verify the obligation. Similarly, a creditor is responsible for considering certain obligations undertaken just before or at account opening and secured by the same dwelling that secures the transaction (for example, a “piggy back” loan), of which the creditor knows, even if not reflected on a credit report. See comment 34(a)(4)-3.
34(a)(4)(iii) Presumption of Compliance
1. In general. A creditor is presumed to have complied with § 1026.34(a)(4) if the creditor follows the three underwriting procedures specified in paragraph 34(a)(4)(iii) for verifying repayment ability, determining the payment obligation, and measuring the relationship of obligations to income. The procedures for verifying repayment ability are required under § 1026.34(a)(4)(ii); the other procedures are not required but, if followed along with the required procedures, create a presumption that the creditor has complied with § 1026.34(a)(4). The consumer may rebut the presumption with evidence that the creditor nonetheless disregarded repayment ability despite following these procedures. For example, evidence of a very high debt-to-income ratio and a very limited residual income could be sufficient to rebut the presumption, depending on all of the facts and circumstances. If a creditor fails to follow one of the non-required procedures set forth in § 1026.34(a)(4)(iii), then the creditor's compliance is determined based on all of the facts and circumstances without there being a presumption of either compliance or violation.
1. Determination of payment schedule. To retain a presumption of compliance under § 1026.34(a)(4)(iii), a creditor must determine the consumer's ability to pay the principal and interest obligation based on the maximum scheduled payment. In general, a creditor should determine a payment schedule for purposes of § 1026.34(a)(4)(iii)(B) based on the guidance in the commentary to § 1026.32(c)(3).
1. “Income” and “debt”. To determine whether to classify particular inflows or obligations as “income” or “debt,” creditors may look to widely accepted governmental and non-governmental underwriting standards, including, for example, those set forth in the Federal Housing Administration's handbook on Mortgage Credit Analysis for Mortgage Insurance.
34(a)(4)(iv) Exclusions From Presumption of Compliance
1. In general. The exclusions from the presumption of compliance should be interpreted consistent with comments 32(d)(1)(i)-1 and 32(d)(2)-1.
2. Renewable balloon loan. If a creditor is unconditionally obligated to renew a balloon-payment loan at the consumer's option (or is obligated to renew subject to conditions within the consumer's control), the full term resulting from such renewal is the relevant term for purposes of the exclusion of certain balloon-payment loans. See comment 17(c)(1)-11 for a discussion of conditions within a consumer's control in connection with renewable balloon-payment loans.
34(a)(5) Pre-loan counseling.
34(a)(5)(i) Certification of counseling required.
1. HUD-approved counselor. For purposes of § 1026.34(a)(5), counselors approved by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are homeownership counselors certified pursuant to section 106(e) of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 (12 U.S.C. 1701x(e)), or as otherwise determined by the Secretary.
2. State housing finance authority. For purposes of § 1026.34(a)(5), a “State housing finance authority” has the same meaning as “State housing finance agency” provided in 24 CFR 214.3.
3. Processing applications. Prior to receiving certification of counseling, a creditor may not extend a high-cost mortgage, but may engage in other activities, such as processing an application that will result in the extension of a high-cost mortgage (by, for example, ordering an appraisal or title search).
4. Form of certification. The written certification of counseling required by § 1026.34(a)(5)(i) may be received by mail, email, facsimile, or any other method, so long as the certification is in a retainable form.
5. Purpose of certification. Certification of counseling indicates that a consumer has received counseling as required by § 1026.34(a)(5), but it does not indicate that a counselor has made a judgment or determination as to the appropriateness of the transaction for the consumer.
34(a)(5)(ii) Timing of counseling.
1. Disclosures for open-end credit plans. Section 1026.34(a)(5)(ii) permits receipt of either the disclosure required by section 5(c) of RESPA or the disclosures required under § 1026.40 to allow counseling to occur. Pursuant to 12 CFR 1024.7(h), the disclosures required by § 1026.40 can be provided for open-end plans in lieu of the usual disclosure required by section 5(c) of RESPA.
2. Transactions not subject to RESPA or § 1026.40. For closed-end mortgage transactions that are not subject to RESPA, the counseling certification must include a statement that the consumer(s) received counseling on the advisability of the high-cost mortgage based on the terms provided in the disclosures required by § 1026.32(c). (Reference to counseling on advisability using the disclosures required by § 1026.32(c) is not required for transactions subject to RESPA or § 1026.40.) The disclosures required by § 1026.32(c) must be furnished to the consumer at least three business days prior to consummation of the mortgage. The creditor may wish to furnish the disclosures sooner, to provide sufficient time for counseling and certification.
3. Initial disclosure. Counseling may occur after receipt of either an initial disclosure required by section 5(c) of RESPA, the disclosures required by § 1026.40, or the disclosures required by § 1026.32(c), regardless of whether revised versions of such disclosures are subsequently provided to the consumer.
34(a)(5)(iv) Content of certification.
1. Statement of counseling on advisability. A statement that a consumer has received counseling on the advisability of the high-cost mortgage means that the consumer has received counseling about key terms of the mortgage transaction, as set out in either the disclosure required by section 5(c) of RESPA or the disclosures provided to the consumer pursuant to § 1026.40, or, for closed-end transactions not subject to RESPA, the disclosures required by § 1026.32(c); the consumer's budget, including the consumer's income, assets, financial obligations, and expenses; and the affordability of the mortgage transaction for the consumer. Examples of such terms of the mortgage transaction include the initial interest rate, the initial monthly payment, whether the payment may increase, how the minimum periodic payment will be determined, and fees imposed by the creditor, as may be reflected in the applicable disclosure. A statement that a consumer has received counseling on the advisability of the high-cost mortgage does not require the counselor to have made a judgment or determination as to the appropriateness of the mortgage transaction for the consumer.
2. Statement of verification. A statement that a counselor has verified that the consumer has received the disclosures required by either § 1026.32(c) or by RESPA for the high-cost mortgage means that a counselor has confirmed, orally, in writing, or by some other means, receipt of such disclosures with the consumer.
34(a)(5)(v) Counseling fees.
1. Financing. Section 1026.34(a)(5)(v) does not prohibit a creditor from financing the counseling fee as part of the transaction for a high-cost mortgage, if the fee is a bona fide third-party charge as provided by § 1026.32(b)(5)(i).
34(a)(5)(vi) Steering prohibited.
1. An example of an action that constitutes steering would be when a creditor repeatedly highlights or otherwise distinguishes the same counselor in the notices the creditor provides to consumers pursuant to § 1026.34(a)(5)(vii).
2. Section 1026.34(a)(5)(vi) does not prohibit a creditor from providing a consumer with objective information related to counselors or counseling organizations in response to a consumer's inquiry. An example of an action that would not constitute steering would be when a consumer asks the creditor for information about the fees charged by a counselor, and the creditor responds by providing the consumer information about fees charged by the counselor to other consumers that previously obtained counseling pursuant to § 1026.34(a)(5).
34(a)(6) Recommended default.
1. Facts and circumstances. Whether a creditor or mortgage broker “recommends or encourages” default for purposes of § 1026.34(a)(6) depends on all of the relevant facts and circumstances.
2. Examples. i. A creditor or mortgage broker “recommends or encourages” default when the creditor or mortgage broker advises the consumer to stop making payments on an existing loan in a manner that is likely to cause the consumer to default on the existing loan.
ii. When delay of consummation of a high-cost mortgage occurs for reasons outside the control of a creditor or mortgage broker, that creditor or mortgage broker does not “recommend or encourage” default because the creditor or mortgage broker informed a consumer that:
A. The consumer's high-cost mortgage is scheduled to be consummated prior to the due date for the next payment due on the consumer's existing loan, which is intended to be paid by the proceeds of the new high-cost mortgage; and
B. Any delay of consummation of the new high-cost mortgage beyond the payment due date of the existing loan will not relieve the consumer of the obligation to make timely payment on that loan.
34(a)(8) Late fees.
1. For purposes of § 1026.34(a)(8), in connection with an open-end credit plan, the amount of the payment past due is the required minimum periodic payment as provided under the terms of the open-end credit agreement.
34(a)(8)(iii) Multiple late charges assessed on payment subsequently paid.
1. Section 1026.34(a)(8)(iii) prohibits the pyramiding of late fees or charges in connection with a high-cost mortgage payment. For example, assume that a consumer's regular periodic payment of $500 is due on the 1st of each month. On August 25, the consumer makes a $500 payment which was due on August 1, and as a result, a $10 late charge is assessed. On September 1, the consumer makes another $500 payment for the regular periodic payment due on September 1, but does not pay the $10 late charge assessed on the August payment. Under § 1026.34(h)(2), it is impermissible to allocate $10 of the consumer's September 1 payment to cover the late charge, such that the September payment becomes delinquent. In short, because the $500 payment made on September 1 is a full payment for the applicable period and is paid by its due date or within any applicable grace period, no late charge may be imposed on the account in connection with the September payment.
34(a)(8)(iv) Failure to make required payment.
1. Under § 1026.34(a)(8)(iv), if a consumer fails to make one or more required payments and then resumes making payments but fails to bring the account current, it is permissible, if permitted by the terms of the loan contract or open-end credit agreement, to apply the consumer's payments first to the past due payment(s) and to impose a late charge on each subsequent required payment until the account is brought current. To illustrate: Assume that a consumer's regular periodic payment of $500 is due on the 1st of each month, or before the expiration of a 15-day grace period. Also assume that the consumer fails to make a timely installment payment by August 1 (or within the applicable grace period), and a $10 late charge therefore is imposed. The consumer resumes making monthly payments on September 1. Under § 1026.34(a)(8)(iv), if permitted by the terms of the loan contract, the creditor may apply the $500 payment made on September 1 to satisfy the missed $500 payment that was due on August 1. If the consumer makes no other payment prior to the end of the grace period for the payment that was due on September 1, the creditor may also impose a $10 late fee for the payment that was due on September 1.
34(a)(10) Financing of points and fees.
1. Points and fees. For purposes of § 1026.34(a)(10), “points and fees” means those items that are required to be included in the calculation of points and fees under § 1026.32(b)(1) and (2). Thus, for example, in connection with the extension of credit under a high-cost mortgage, a creditor may finance a fee charged by a third-party counselor in connection with the consumer's receipt of pre-loan counseling under § 1026.34(a)(5), because, pursuant to § 1026.32(b)(1)(i)(D) and (b)(2)(i)(D), such a fee is excluded from the calculation of points and fees as a bona fide third-party charge.
2. Examples of financing points and fees. For purposes of § 1026.34(a)(10), points and fees are financed if, for example, they are added to the loan balance or financed through a separate note, if the note is payable to the creditor or to an affiliate of the creditor. In the case of an open-end credit plan, a creditor also finances points and fees if the creditor advances funds from the credit line to cover the fees.
34(b) Prohibited acts or practices for dwelling-secured loans; structuring loans to evade high-cost mortgage requirements.
i. A creditor structures a transaction in violation of § 1026.34(b) if, for example, the creditor structures a loan that would otherwise be a high-cost mortgage as two or more loans, whether made consecutively or at the same time, for example, to divide the loan fees to avoid the points and fees threshold for high-cost mortgages in § 1026.32(a)(1)(ii).
ii. A creditor does not structure a transaction in violation of § 1026.34(b) when a loan to finance the initial construction of a dwelling may be permanently financed by the same creditor, such as a “construction-to-permanent” loan, and the construction phase and the permanent phase are treated as separate transactions. Section 1026.17(c)(6)(ii) permits the creditor to give either one combined disclosure for both the construction financing and the permanent financing, or a separate set of disclosures for each of the two phases as though they were two separate transactions. See also comment 17(c)(6)-2.
2. Amount of credit extended. Where a loan is documented as open-end credit but the features and terms or other circumstances demonstrate that it does not meet the definition of open-end credit, the loan is subject to the rules for closed-end credit. Thus, in determining the “total loan amount” for purposes of applying the triggers under § 1026.32, the amount of credit that would have been extended if the loan had been documented as a closed-end loan is a factual determination to be made in each case. Factors to be considered include the amount of money the consumer originally requested, the amount of the first advance or the highest outstanding balance, or the amount of the credit line. The full amount of the credit line is considered only to the extent that it is reasonable to expect that the consumer might use the full amount of credit.
34(b) Prohibited Acts or Practices for Dwelling-Secured Loans; Open-End Credit
1. Amount of credit extended. Where a loan is documented as open-end credit but the features and terms or other circumstances demonstrate that it does not meet the definition of open-end credit, the loan is subject to the rules for closed-end credit, including § 1026.32 if the rate or fee trigger is met. In applying the triggers under § 1026.32, the “amount financed,” including the “principal loan amount” must be determined. In making the determination, the amount of credit that would have been extended if the loan had been documented as a closed-end loan is a factual determination to be made in each case. Factors to be considered include the amount of money the consumer originally requested, the amount of the first advance or the highest outstanding balance, or the amount of the credit line. The full amount of the credit line is considered only to the extent that it is reasonable to expect that the consumer might use the full amount of credit.