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Federal agencies encourage mortgage service providers to work with homeowners affected by COVID-19

Federal agencies encourage mortgage service providers to work with struggling homeowners affected by COVID-19

Washington, DC (STL.News) The federal financial institution regulatory agencies and the state financial regulators issued a joint policy statement providing needed regulatory flexibility to enable mortgage service providers to work with struggling consumers affected by the Coronavirus Disease (referred to as COVID-19) emergency.  The actions announced today by the agencies inform service providers of the agencies’ flexible supervisory and enforcement approach during the COVID-19 pandemic regarding certain communications to consumers required by the mortgage servicing rules.  The policy statement and guidance issued today will facilitate mortgage service providers’ ability to place consumers in short-term payment forbearance programs such as the one established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

Under the CARES Act, borrowers in a federally backed mortgage loan experiencing a financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 pandemic, may request forbearance by making a request to their mortgage service company and affirming that they are experiencing a financial hardship during the COVID–19 pandemic.  In response, service providers must provide a CARES Act forbearance, that allows borrowers to defer their mortgage payments for up to 180-days and possibly longer.

The policy statement clarifies that the agencies do not intend to take supervisory or enforcement action against mortgage service providers for delays in sending certain early intervention and loss mitigation notices and taking certain actions relating to loss mitigation set out in the mortgage servicing rules, provided that service providers are making good faith efforts to provide these notices and take these actions within a reasonable time.

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To further enable short-term payment forbearance programs or short-term repayment plans, mortgage service providers offering these programs or plans will not have to provide an acknowledgement notice within 5 days of receipt of an incomplete application, provided the service provider sends the acknowledgment notice before the end of the forbearance or repayment period.

The guidance also reminds service providers that there is existing flexibility in the rules with respect to the content of certain notices.  Finally, to assist service providers experiencing high call volumes from consumers seeking help, the policy statement also confirms that the agencies do not intend to take supervisory or enforcement action against mortgage service providers for delays in sending annual escrow statements, provided that service providers are making good faith efforts to provide these statements within a reasonable time.