WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), jointly with other government agencies, announced a return to enforcement of critical protections for families and homeowners. Those protections, put in place in the wake of the Great Recession to prevent another foreclosure crisis, give families the chance to find alternatives to foreclosure before losing their home. With the majority of the over one million remaining COVID-19 forbearances expected to end before the end of the year, struggling homeowners will need these protections to avoid foreclosure.
“Failures by mortgage servicers and regulators worsened the impact of the economic crisis a decade ago,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “Regulators have learned their lesson, and we will be scrutinizing servicers to ensure they are doing all they can to help homeowners and follow the law.”
Most homeowners make their monthly mortgage payment to a mortgage servicer. Mortgage servicers collect the payments on behalf of the entity that owns the loan and are hired and fired by that entity, not the homeowner. Homeowners cannot shop for a new servicer, no matter how badly they are mistreated. As a result, borrowers cannot exercise market power to discipline mortgage servicers and, absent government intervention, have no defense against a servicer’s abuse of market dominance.
The CFPB issued the joint statement with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and state financial regulators. The statement makes clear that the agencies will apply their respective supervisory and enforcement authorities to protect homeowners and address any compliance failures. The joint statement provides that a previous joint statement issued in April 2020, which stated that the agencies would relax supervisory and enforcement oversight with respect to certain requirements in Regulation X, will no longer apply. The agencies believe that the servicers have had adequate time to adjust their operations to comply with the timelines and other requirements of Regulation X and servicers will now be expected to fully comply with the rules.
The CFPB also released a report summarizing its work to help struggling homeowners and avert another foreclosure crisis. This work includes:
- Conducting prioritized assessments, or targeted supervisory reviews, designed to obtain real-time information from mortgage services due to the elevated risk of consumer harm because of the pandemic.
- Reminding servicers that “unprepared is unacceptable,” and that servicers need to dedicate enough resources and staff to ensure they can communicate clearly with homeowners, effectively assist borrowers, and reduce avoidable foreclosures during the surge in forbearance exits this fall.
- Implementing temporary procedural safeguards to help ensure that borrowers have time before foreclosure to explore their options, including loan modifications and selling their homes.
- Analyzing consumer complaint data about mortgage servicing and mortgage forbearances.
- Conducting additional, targeted review of high-risk complaints related to COVID-19 forbearance.
- Analyzing and publishing mortgage servicers’ COVID-19 pandemic response.
- Conducting original research documenting that Black and Hispanic communities, and low-income communities across racial and ethnic groups are at increased risk of another foreclosure crisis due to the disproportionate concentration of mortgage forbearances and delinquencies in those communities;
- Creating an online housing hub website at www.consumerfinance.gov/
housing, in partnership with other federal agencies, to connect homeowners, renters and landlords with information about CARES Act assistance and protections.
- Creating and distributing homeowner outreach materials, in English and other languages, that servicers and housing counselors can use to help homeowners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The CFPB will continue to monitor closely the performance of mortgage servicers to prevent avoidable foreclosures to the maximum extent possible and will not hesitate to take supervisory or enforcement action if warranted.