Articles Posted in RESPA Reform

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which will oversee the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) now has a decision maker to help set up the CFPB. President Obama announced today the appointment of Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren to implement policies and procedures to protect consumers from financial products. Ms. Warren who is widely known as the person who developed the idea for the CFPB will also be responsible for helping select a director to head up the CFPB.

Warren is considered a strong consumer advocate and her ideology has some in the financial services industry concerned. The concern reached a fevered pitch over the last two months with Republicans and the financial services industry pledged to hold up her confirmation in the Senate. Obama’s move of not appointed her to the CFBP but rather giving Warren supervisory authority of the CFPB without going through a senate confirmation process stunned her critics.

It remains to be seen how Warren will tackle the enforcement of RESPA in the near future but I suspect that we will see a huge increase in both funding and manpower in the RESPA enforcement arena.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development is seeking public comments relating to Section 9: “Required Use” under RESPA. “The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA): Strengthening and Clarifying RESPA’s “Required Use” Prohibition Advance Notice of Proposed Rule making” was made public on June, 3, 2010.

HUD appears to be concentrating on home builder owned title and mortgage companies where homebuilders offered construction upgrades or discounts to consumers if the home buyers used their ancillary title or mortgage company. The controversy centered around a few homebuilders who offered consumers free upgrades (i.e. bonus rooms, automobiles, or other extravincentives) if the consumer used the home builders affiliated mortgage or title company. The controversy escalated when some of these free upgrades exceeded tens of thousands of dollars. The cost to use another mortgage or title company did not make sense because the consumer would lose out on the extravagant free upgrade. Some consumers felt like they had to use the home builders affiliated business because the incentive was so excessive they had no choice but to use the homebuilders mortgage company.

The affiliated business model is encouraged by HUD when the consumer saves money but some some felt like the practice that a few homebuilders engaged in did not really save the consumers money on the mortgage side because they claim the interest rates were higher.

Sylvia Hsieh with Lawyers USA recently interviewed several attorneys from across the United States on how the new Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) regulations have created confusion for both the real estate industry and for consumers. Hsieh’s article “New Real Estate Settlment Procedure Act regs stir confusion, frustration” is a good article on how the rule is creating many challenges. For disclosure purposes she also interviewed Marx Sterbcow with the Sterbcow Law Group LLC for this article.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) made a number of surprising management changes last month including the shuffling of Ivy Jackson, the Director of the Office of RESPA and Interstate Land Sales to the Office of Insured Health Care Facilities. Ivy Jackson’s departure took the real estate industry by surprise and created uncertainty for state regulators who were relying on her to educate them the new RESPA regulations this year.

The Sterbcow Law Group would like to thank Ivy Jackson for her contributions over the years at RESPA. She will always be remembered as a federal regulator who was fair to the real estate industry and to consumer interests while at RESPA. Ms. Jackson’s work ethic, honesty, and experience will be missed.

HUD promoted Teresa Baker Payne to the position of Assistant Deputy Assistant Secretary and Barton Shapiro was named Acting Director of RESPA and Interstate Land Sales. Ms. Payne and Mr. Shapiro both bring experience to their new positions. Ms.Payne and Mr. Shapiro both are excellent choices for their respective roles at HUD.
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The U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) Division released new updated FAQs on Jan. 28, 2010. The new RESPA frequently asked updated question and answers (FAQs) are in bold.

One of the new questions asks whether a loan originator can require the use of its affiliate company for the tax or flood certificate. The updated RESPA guidance says that the loan originator may not require the use of its affiliate for the tax service or flood certificate, but a loan originator may require the use of a non-affiliated provider.

Three weeks have gone by since the new RESPA Regulations went into effect and the most commonly asked question we have encountered thus far is how are Seller Paid Transfer Tax Charges shown.

The Frequently Asked Questions “FAQs” state that “All charges typically paid by the borrower must be disclosed on the Good Faith Estimate regardless of whether the charges will be paid by the borrower, seller, or other party?” The FAQ under Section 4 & 5 (see pages 34 & 35): Right to Cure Tolerance Violations has caused a great deal of confusion in some areas of the country on the issue of where to put the transfer tax fee. The confusion centers on whether the transfer tax fee has to be disclosed on the borrower’s Good Faith Estimate even if the seller is paying for 100% of the transfer tax.

In some areas of the United States the local custom or tradition in a real estate closing has been to make the seller pay for the entire or a portion of the transfer tax or there is language in the real estate contract stating the seller is to pay for all or part of the transfer tax.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the new Settlement Cost Booklet. The 49 page informational booklet must be delivered to consumers within three days of the application along with the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) for a mortgage loan by their lender or mortgage broker. Even though the HUD informational guide was released on Dec. 16, 2009 it must be used beginning on Jan. 1, 2010. Failure to provide the new HUD booklet to consumers within three days of the loan application is a violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) Section 5.

An electronic copy of HUD’s Settlement Cost Booklet can be sent to the borrower electronically in lieu of the printed booklet.

HUD announced today a delay in “HUD ENFORCEMENT” on the new RESPA Rule which goes into effect on Jan. 1st, 2010 on FHA loans. We need to highlight the fact that only HUD Enforcement of the new RESPA rule has been delayed for 120 days on FHA loans. Civil litigation on the new RESPA Rule goes into effect on Jan. 1st, 2010 and therefore is not delayed.

We applaud HUD for delaying enforcement of the new rule for 4 months it still exposes companies that do not implement the new changes to potential civil litigation issues for not complying with the new rule.

Another RESPA attorney said it best: “Better pin on your badge and strap on your gun looks like HUD will look to the plaintiff’s bar to bring the heat in the first 4 months.”

Below is a copy of the HUD press release:
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The Director of the Office of RESPA and Interstate Land Sales for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ivy Jackson, clarified an major issue today that addresses industry confusion over the Yield Spread Premium “YSP”. Several wholesale lenders issued guidance that the new RESPA restrictions required anyone who is not funding their own loan to have all the YSP, any money made on the interest rate, credited to the borrower. Some wholesale lenders were under the belief that anyone who brokered a loan would not be allowed to make any money on the loans interest rate or YSP.

For example under the current rule if the par rate today was 5.5% and its paying 100.500% that the broker would make their origination of 1% plus .5% on th rate in YSP. However, some wholesale lenders have been issuing guidance to mortgage brokers throughout the country that say the new RESPA restrictions forces the loan originator to credit the .5% YSP to the borrower at closing. This is not accurate as Ivy Jackson clarifies below:

Ivy Jackson said this is not accurate and states that “while true that any YSPs are now shown as a credit to the borrower in Box 2 under “Your Adjusted Origination Charges.” The rule eliminates the 1% cap on origination charges for FHA loans.

The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act “RESPA” regulations set to take place on January 1, 2010 has purportedly been delayed by HUD for six months. We are now waiting for an official announcement to take place by HUD to officially confirm the six month delay which should make the new implementation date on or around July 1, 2010.

We don’t know what precipitated this possible delay by HUD but the real estate industry has stepped up their criticisms on the new rule, including a recent letter sent to HUD by numerous trade organizations, issues with the new Truth In Lending Act form “TILA” integration, and other federal enforcement agencies concerns about the transparency of the new HUD-1 have forced HUD to re-evaluate parts of the new rule. Of course one of the other problems is that many in the real estate industry are still very much unaware or uneducated on the new RESPA Rule.

UPDATED at 10:39 PM: