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Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government

BUREAU OF CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION

12 CFR Part 1024

[Docket No. CFPB-2012-0034]

RIN 3170-AA14

2012 Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (Regulation X) Mortgage Servicing Proposal

AGENCY: Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.
ACTION: Proposed rule with request for public comment.
SUMMARY: This proposal would also modify and streamline certain existing servicing-related provisions of Regulation X. For instance, the proposal would revise provisions relating to a mortgage servicer's obligation to provide disclosures to borrowers in connection with a transfer of mortgage servicing, and a mortgage servicer's obligation to manage escrow accounts, including the obligation to advance funds to an escrow account to maintain insurance coverage and to return amounts in an escrow account to a borrower upon payment in full of a mortgage loan.

Published elsewhere in today'sFederal Register, the Bureau proposes companion regulations implementing amendments to the Truth In Lending Act (TILA) in Regulation Z (the 2012 TILA Servicing Proposal).

DATES: Comments must be received on or before October 9, 2012, except that comments on the Paperwork Reduction Act analysis in part IX of thisFederal Registernotice must be received on or before November 16, 2012.
ADDRESSES: *Electronic: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

*Mail/Hand Delivery/Courier:Monica Jackson, Office of the Executive Secretary, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1700 G Street NW., Washington, DC 20552.

Instructions:All submissions must include the agency name and docket number or Regulatory Information Number (RIN) for this rulemaking. In general, all comments received will be posted without change tohttp://www.regulations.gov. In addition, comments will be available for public inspection and copying at 1700 G Street NW., Washington, DC 20552, on official business days between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Time. You can make an appointment to inspect the documents by telephoning (202) 435-7275.

All comments, including attachments and other supporting materials, will become part of the public record and subject to public disclosure. Sensitive personal information, such as account numbers or Social Security numbers, should not be included. Comments will not be edited to remove any identifying or contact information.

e-Rulemaking Initiative

The Bureau is working with the Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) on a pilot project, Regulation Room, to use different web technologies and approaches to enhance public understanding and participation in Bureau rulemakings and to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of these techniques. The TILA and RESPA proposed rulemakings on mortgage servicing are the subject of the project. The Bureau has undertaken this project to increase effective public involvement in the rulemaking process and strongly encourages all parties interested in this rulemaking to visit the Regulation Room Web site,http://www.regulationroom.org, to learn about the Bureau's proposed mortgage servicing rules and the rulemaking process, to discuss the issues in the rules with other persons and groups, and to participate in drafting a summary of that discussion that CeRI will submit to the Bureau.

Note that Regulation Room is sponsored by CeRI, and is not an official United States Government Web site. Participating in the discussion on that site will not result in individual formal comments that will be included in the Bureau's rulemaking record. If you would like to add a formal comment, please do so through the means identified above. The Bureau anticipates that CeRI will submit to the Bureau's rulemaking docket a summary of the discussion that occurs on the Regulation Room site and that participants will have a chance to review a draft and suggest changes before the summary is submitted. For questions about this project, please contact Whitney Patross, Attorney, Office of Regulations, at (202) 435-7700.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Regulation X (RESPA):Jane Gao, Mitchell E. Hochberg, and Michael Scherzer, Counsels at (202) 435-7700; Office of Regulations, Division of Research, Markets, and Regulations, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection; 1700 G Street NW., Washington, DC 20552.

Regulation Z (TILA):Whitney Patross, Attorney and Marta Tanenhaus, Senior Counsel at (202) 435-7700; Office of Regulations, Division of Research, Markets, and Regulations, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection; 1700 G Street NW., Washington, DC 20552.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Overview A. Background

The recent financial crisis exposed pervasive consumer protection problems across major segments of the mortgage servicing industry. As millions of borrowers fell behind on their loans, many servicers failed to provide the level of service necessary to serve the needs of those borrowers. Many servicers simply had not made the investments in resources and infrastructure necessary to service large numbers of delinquent loans. Existing weaknesses in servicer practices, including inadequate recordkeeping and document management and lack of oversight of service providers, made it harder to sort out borrower problems to achieve optimal results. In addition, many servicers took short cuts that made things even worse. As one review of fourteen major servicers found, companies “emphasize[d] speed and cost efficiency over quality and accuracy” in their foreclosure processes.1

1Federal Reserve System, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, & Office of ThriftSupervision,Interagency Review of Foreclosure Policies and Practices,at 5 (Apr. 2011) (Interagency Foreclosure Report), available athttp://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/news-releases/2011/nr-occ-2011-47a.pdf.

The Dodd-Frank Act (Pub. L. 111-203, July 21, 2010) adopts several new servicing protections.2 The Bureau has the authority to promulgate regulations to implement the new servicing protections. These changes will significantly improve disclosures to make it easier for consumers to monitor their mortgage loans and servicers' activities. The changes also address critical servicer practices, including error resolution, prompt crediting of payments, and “force-placing” insurance where borrowers have allowed their hazard insurance policies to lapse.

2 SeeDodd-Frank Act sections 1418, 1420, 1463, and 1464.

The Dodd-Frank Act also gives the Bureau discretionary authority to develop additional servicing rules. The Bureau proposes to use this authority to adopt requirements relating to reasonable information management policies and procedures, early intervention with delinquent borrowers, continuity of contact, and procedures for evaluating and responding to loss mitigation applications when the servicer makes loss mitigation options available in the ordinary course of business. These proposals address fundamental problems that underlie many consumer complaints and recent regulatory and enforcement actions. The Bureau believes these changes will reduce avoidable foreclosures and improve general customer service. The proposals cover nine major topics, as summarized below.

The Bureau's proposal is split into two parts because Congress imposed some requirements under TILA and some under RESPA.3 This proposed rule would amend Regulation X, which implements RESPA, to implement section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act concerning error resolution and force-placed insurance and to impose additional requirements concerning reasonable information management policies and procedures, early intervention with delinquent borrowers, continuity of contact, and procedures for evaluating and responding to loss mitigation applications.

3Note that TILA and RESPA differ in their terminology. Consumers and creditors are the defined terms used in Regulation Z. Borrowers and lenders are the defined terms used in Regulation X.

B. Scope of Coverage

The proposed rules generally apply to closed-end mortgage loans, with certain exceptions. Under the proposed amendments to Regulation X, open-end lines of credit and certain other loans, such as construction loans and business-purpose loans, are excluded. Under the proposed amendments to Regulation Z, the periodic statement and adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), disclosure provisions apply only to closed-end mortgage loans, but the prompt crediting and payoff statement provisions apply both to open-end and closed-end mortgage loans. In addition, reverse mortgages and timeshares are excluded from the periodic statement requirement, and certain construction loans are excluded from the ARM disclosure requirements. As discussed below, the Bureau is seeking comment on whether to exempt small servicers from certain requirements or modify certain requirements for small servicers.

C. Summary

The proposals cover nine major topics, summarized below. More details can be found in the proposed rules, which are split into two notices issued under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), respectively.

1. Periodic billing statements.The Dodd-Frank Act generally mandates that servicers of closed-end residential mortgage loans (other than reverse mortgages) must send a periodic statement for each billing cycle. These statements must meet the timing, form, and content requirements provided for in the rule. The proposal contains sample forms that servicers could use. The periodic statement requirement generally would not apply for fixed-rate loans if the servicer provides a coupon book, so long as the coupon book contains certain information specified in the rule and certain other information is made available to the consumer. The proposal also includes an exception for small servicers that service 1000 or fewer mortgage loans and service only mortgage loans that they originated or own.

2. Adjustable-rate mortgage interest-rate adjustment notices.Servicers would have to provide a consumer whose mortgage has an adjustable rate with a notice 60 to 120 days before an adjustment which causes the payment to change. The servicer would also have to provide an earlier notice 210 to 240 days prior to the first rate adjustment. This first notice may contain an estimate of the rate and payment change. Other than this initial notice, servicers would no longer be required to provide an annual notice if a rate adjustment does not result in an increase in the monthly payment. The proposal contains model and sample forms that servicers could use.

3. Prompt payment crediting and payoff payments.As required by the Dodd-Frank Act, servicers must promptly credit payments from borrowers, generally on the day of receipt. If a servicer receives a payment that is less than a full contractual payment, the payment may be held in a suspense account. When the amount in the suspense account covers a full installment of principal, interest, and escrow (if applicable), the proposal would require the servicer to apply the funds to the oldest outstanding payment owed. A servicer also would be required to send an accurate payoff balance to a consumer no later than seven business days after receipt of a written request from the borrower for such information.

4. Force-placed insurance.As required by the Dodd-Frank Act, servicers would not be permitted to charge a borrower for force-placed insurance coverage unless the servicer has a reasonable basis to believe the borrower has failed to maintain hazard insurance and has provided required notices. One notice to the borrower would be required at least 45 days before charging for forced-place insurance coverage, and a second notice would be required no earlier than 30 days after the first notice. The proposal contains model forms that servicers could use. If a borrower provides proof of hazard insurance coverage, then the servicer would be required to cancel any force-placed insurance policy and refund any premiums paid for periods in which the borrower's policy was in place. In addition, if a servicer makes payments for hazard insurance from a borrower's escrow account, a servicer would be required to continue those payments rather than force-placing a separate policy, even if there is insufficient money in the escrow account. The rule would also provide that charges related to forced place insurance (other than those subject to State regulation as the business of insurance or authorized by Federal law for flood insurance) must relate to a service that was actually performed. Additionally, such charges would have to bear a reasonable relationship to the servicer's cost of providing the service.

5. Error resolution and information requests.Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, servicers would be required to meet certain procedural requirements for responding to information requests or complaints of errors. The proposal defines specific types of claims which constitute an error, such as a claim that the servicer misapplied a payment or assessed an improper fee. A borrowercould assert an error either orally or in writing. Servicers could designate a specific phone number and address for borrowers to use. Servicers would be required to acknowledge the request or complaint within five days. Servicers would have to correct or respond to the borrower with the results of the investigation, generally within 30 to 45 days. Further, servicers generally would be required to acknowledge borrower requests for information and either provide the information or explain why the information is not available within a similar amount of time. A servicer would not be required to delay a scheduled foreclosure sale to consider a notice of error unless the error relates to the servicer's improperly proceeding with a foreclosure sale during a borrower's evaluation for alternatives to foreclosure.

6. Information management policies and procedure.Servicers would be required to establish reasonable information management policies and procedures. The reasonableness of a servicer's policies and procedures would take into account the servicer's size, scope, and nature of its operations. A servicer's policies and procedures would satisfy the rule if the servicer regularly achieves the document retention and servicing file requirements, as well as certain objectives specified in the rule. Examples of such objectives include providing accurate and timely information to borrowers and the courts or enabling servicer personnel to have prompt access to documents and information submitted in connection with loss mitigation applications. In addition, a servicer must retain records relating to each mortgage until one year after the mortgage is discharged or servicing is transferred and must create a mortgage servicing file for each loan containing certain specified documents and information.

7. Early intervention with delinquent borrowers.Servicers would be required to make good faith efforts to notify delinquent borrowers of loss mitigation options. If a borrower is 30 days late, the proposal would require servicers to make a good faith effort to notify the borrower orally and to let the borrower know that loss mitigations options may be available. If the borrower is 40 days late, the servicer would be required to provide the borrower with a written notice with certain specific information, including examples of loss mitigation options available, if applicable, and information on how to obtain more information about loss mitigation options. The notice would also provide information to the borrower about the foreclosure process. The rule contains model language servicers could use for these notices.

8. Continuity of contact with delinquent borrowers.Servicers would be required to provide delinquent borrowers with access to personnel to assist them with loss mitigation options where applicable. The proposal would require servicers to assign dedicated contact personnel for a borrower no later than five days after providing the early intervention notice. Servicers would be required to establish reasonable policies and procedures designed to ensure that the servicer personnel perform certain specified functions where applicable, such as access the borrower's records and provide the borrower with information about how and when to apply for a loss mitigation option and about the status of the application.

9. Loss mitigation procedures.Servicers that offer loss mitigation options to borrowers would be required to implement procedures to ensure that complete loss mitigation applications are reasonably evaluated before proceeding with a scheduled foreclosure sale. The proposal would require servicers to exercise reasonable diligence to secure information or documents required to make an incomplete loss mitigation application complete. In certain circumstances, this could include notifying the borrower within five days of receiving an incomplete application. Within 30 days of receiving a borrower's complete application, the servicer would be required to evaluate the borrower for all available options, and, if the denial pertains to a requested loan modification, notify the borrower of the reasons for the servicer's decision, and provide the borrower with at least a 14-day period within which to appeal the decision. The proposal would require that appeals be decided within 30 days by different personnel than those responsible for the initial decision. A servicer that receives a complete application for a loss mitigation option could not proceed with a foreclosure sale unless (i) the servicer had denied the borrower's application and the time for any appeal had expired; (ii) the servicer had offered a loss mitigation option which the borrower declined or failed to accept within 14 days of the offer; or (iii) the borrower failed to comply with the terms of a loss mitigation agreement. The proposal would require that deadlines for submitting an application for a loss mitigation option be no earlier than 90 days before a scheduled foreclosure sale.

D. Small Servicers

As discussed below, the Bureau convened a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel to assess the impact of the possible rules on small servicers and to help the Bureau determine to what extent it may be appropriate to consider adjusting these standards for small servicers, to the extent permitted by law. Informed by this process, the 2012 TILA Servicing Proposal contains an exemption from the periodic statement requirement for certain small servicers. The Bureau seeks comment on whether other exemptions might be appropriate for small servicers.

E. Effective Date

As discussed below, the Bureau is seeking comment on when this final rule should be effective. Because the final rule will provide important benefits to consumers, the Bureau seeks to make it effective as soon as possible. However, the Bureau understands that the final rules will require servicers to make revisions to their software and to retrain their staff. In addition, some entities will be required to implement other Dodd-Frank Act provisions, which are subject to separate rulemaking deadlines under the statue and will have separate effective dates. Therefore, the Bureau is seeking comment on how much time industry needs to make these changes.

II. Background A. Overview of the Mortgage Servicing Market and Market Failures

The mortgage market is the single largest market for consumer financial products and services in the United States, with approximately $10.3 trillion in loans outstanding.4 Mortgage servicers play a vital role within the broader market by undertaking the day-to-day management of mortgage loans on behalf of lenders who hold the loans in their portfolios or (where a loan has been securitized) investors who are entitled to the loan proceeds.5 Over60% of mortgage loans are serviced by mortgage servicers for investors.

4Inside Mortgage Finance, Outstanding 1-4 Family Mortgage Securities, Mortgage Market Statistical Annual (2012). For general background on the market and the recent mortgage crisis,seethe 2012 TILA-RESPA Proposal available at:http://www.consumerfinance.gov/knowbeforeyouowe/.

5As of the end of 2011, approximately 33% of outstanding mortgage loans were held in portfolio, 57% of mortgage loans were owned through mortgage-backed securities issued by government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), and 11% of loans were owned through private label mortgage-backed securities. Inside Mortgage Finance, Issue 2012:13, at 11 (March 30, 2012). A securitization results in the economic separation of the legal title to the mortgage loan and a beneficial interest in themortgage loan obligation. In a securitization transaction, a securitization trust is the owner or assignee of a mortgage loan. An investor is a creditor of the trust and is entitled to cash flows that are derived from the proceeds of the mortgage loans. In general, certain investors (or an insurer entitled to act on behalf of the investors) may direct the trust to take action as the owner or assignee of the mortgage loans for the benefit of the investors or insurers.See, e.g.,Adam Levitin & Tara Twomey,Mortgage Servicing,28 Yale J. on Reg., 1, 11 (2011) (Levitin & Twomey).

Servicers' duties typically include billing borrowers for amounts due, collecting and allocating payments, maintaining and disbursing funds from escrow accounts, reporting to creditors or investors, and pursuing collection and loss mitigation activities (including foreclosures and loan modifications) with respect to delinquent borrowers. Indeed, without dedicated companies to perform these activities, it is questionable whether a secondary market for mortgage-backed securities would exist in this country.6

6 See, e.g.,Levitin & Twomey at 11 (“All securitizations involved third-party servicers * * * [m]ortgage servicers provide the critical link between mortgage borrowers and the SPV and RMBS investors, and servicing arrangements are an indispensable part of securitization.”).

Several aspects of the mortgage servicing business make it uniquely challenging for consumer protection purposes. Given the nature of their activities, servicers can have a direct and profound impact on borrowers. However, industry compensation practices and the structure of the mortgage servicing industry create wide variations in servicers' incentives to provide effective customer service to borrowers. Also, because borrowers cannot choose their own servicers, it is particularly difficult for them to protect themselves from shoddy service or harmful practices.

Mortgage servicing is performed by banks, thrifts, credit unions, and non-bank servicers under a variety of business models. In some cases, creditors service mortgage loans that they originate or purchase and hold in portfolio. Other creditors sell the ownership of the underlying mortgage loan, but retain the mortgage servicing rights in order to retain the relationship with the borrower, as well as the servicing fee and other ancillary income. In still other cases, servicers have no role at all in origination or loan ownership, but rather purchase mortgage servicing rights on securitized loans or are hired to service a portfolio lender's loans.7

7 See, e.g.,Diane E. Thompson,Foreclosing Modifications: How Servicer Incentives Discourage Loan Modifications,86 Wash. L. Rev. 755, 763 (2011) (Thompson), available athttp://digital.law.washington.edu/dspace-law/bitstream/handle/1773.1/1074/86WLR755.pdf.

These different servicing structures can create difficulties for borrowers if a servicer makes mistakes, fails to invest sufficient resources in its servicing operations, or does not properly service the borrower's loan. Although the mortgage servicing industry has numerous participants, the industry is highly concentrated, with the five largest servicers servicing approximately 55 percent of outstanding mortgage loans in this country.8 Small servicers generally operate in discrete segments of the market, for example, by specializing in servicing delinquent loans, or by servicing loans that they originate.9

8 See, e.g,Inside Mortgage Finance, Issue 2012:13, at 12 (Mar. 30, 2012). As of the end of the fourth quarter of 2011, the top five largest servicers serviced $5.66 trillion of mortgage loans.See id.at 12.

9 See, e.g.,Fitch Ratings,U.S. Residential and Small Balance Commercial Mortgage Servicer Rating Criteria,at 14-15 (Jan. 31, 2011), available at http://www.fitchratings.com.

Contracts between the servicer and the mortgage loan owner specify the rights and responsibilities of each party. In the context of securitized loans, the contracts may require the servicer to balance the competing interests of different classes of investors when borrowers become delinquent. Certain provisions in servicing contracts may limit the servicer's ability to offer certain types of loan modifications to borrowers. Such contracts also may limit the circumstances under which investors can transfer servicing rights to a different servicer.

Compensation structures vary somewhat for loans held in portfolio and securitized loans,10 but have tended to make pure mortgage servicing (where the servicer has no role in origination) a high-volume, low-margin business in which servicers have little incentive to invest in customer service. A servicer will expect to recoup its investment in purchasing mortgage servicing rights and earn a profit through a net servicing fee (which is expressed as a constant rate assessed on unpaid mortgage balances),11 fees assessed on borrowers, interest float on payment accounts between receipt and disbursement, and cross-marketing other products and services to borrowers. Under this business model, servicers act primarily as payment collectors and processors, and provide minimal customer service to ensure profitability. Servicers also have an incentive to look for opportunities to impose fees on borrowers to enhance revenues and are generally not subject to market discipline because consumers have no opportunity to switch providers. Additionally, servicers may have financial incentives to foreclose rather than engage in loss mitigation.12

10At securitization, the cash flow that was part of interest income is bifurcated between the loan and the mortgage servicing right (MSR). The MSR represents the present value of all the cash flows, both positive and negative, related to servicing a mortgage. Prime MSRs are largely created by the GSE minimum servicing fee rate, which is calculated as 25 basis points (bps) per annum. The servicing fee rate is typically paid to the servicer monthly and the monthly amount owed is calculated by multiplying the pro rata portion of the servicing fee rate by the stated principal balance of the mortgage loan at the payment due date. Accounting rules require that a capitalized asset be created if the “compensation” for servicing (including float/ancillary) exceeds “adequate compensation.” For loans held in portfolio, there is no bifurcation of the interest income from the loan. The owner of the loan simply negotiates pricing, terms, and standards with the servicer, which, at larger institutions, is typically a separate affiliate or subsidiary of the owner of the loans. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods,Mortgage Servicing Primer,at 3 (Apr. 17, 2012).

11 See, e.g.,Thompson, 86 Wash. L. Rev. 755, 767.

12National Consumer Law Center,Why Servicers Foreclose When They Should Modify and Other Puzzles of Servicer Behavior,at v (Oct. 2009) (“Servicers, unlike investors or homeowners, do not generally lose money on foreclosure. Servicers may even make money on a foreclosure.”);see also, The Need for National Mortgage Servicing Standards: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Housing, Transportation, and Community Affairs of the Senate Comm. on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs,S. Hrg. 112-139, 112th Cong. 126 (2011) (statement of Diane E. Thompson, National Consumer Law Center), at 15 (“...modification will also likely reduce future income, cost more in the present in staffing, and delay recovery of expenses. Moreover, the foreclosure process itself generates significant income for servicers.”), available athttp://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/pr-reports/report-servicers-modify.pdf.

These attributes of the servicing market created problems for certain borrowers even prior to the national mortgage crisis. For example, borrowers experienced problems with mortgage servicers even during regional mortgage market downturns that preceded the mortgage crisis.13 Borrowers were subjected to improper fees that servicers had no reasonable basis to impose on borrowers, improper force-placed insurance practices, and improper foreclosure and bankruptcy practices.14

13 See Problems in Mortgage Servicing From Modification to Foreclosure: Hearings Before the Comm. on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs,S. Hrg. 111-987, 111th Cong. 53-54 (2010) (statement of Thomas J. Miller, Iowa Attorney General) (Miller Testimony).See also,Kurt Eggert,Limiting Abuse and Opportunism by Mortgage Servicers 15:3 Housing Policy Debate(2004), available athttp://ssrn.com/abstract=992095

14 SeeKurt Eggert,Limiting Abuse and Opportunism by Mortgage Servicers 15:3 Housing Policy Debate(2004), available athttp://ssrn.com/abstract=992095(collecting cases).

When the mortgage crisis erupted, many servicers were ill-equipped to handle the high volumes of delinquent mortgages, loan modification requests,and foreclosures they were required to process. These servicers lacked the infrastructure, trained staff, controls, and procedures needed to manage effectively the flood of delinquent mortgages they were forced to handle. Consumer harm has manifested in many different areas, and major servicers have entered into significant settlement agreements with Federal and State governmental authorities. For example, in April 2011, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Board undertook formal enforcement actions against several major servicers for unsafe and unsound residential mortgage loan servicing practices.15 These enforcement actions generally focused on practices relating to (1) filing of foreclosure documents without, for example, proper affidavits or notarizations; (2) failing to always ensure that loan documents were properly endorsed or assigned and, if necessary, in the possession of the appropriate party at the appropriate time; (3) failing to devote sufficient financial, staffing, and managerial resources to ensure proper administration of foreclosures processes; (4) failing to devote adequate oversight, internal controls, policies and procedures, compliance risk management, internal audit, third party management, and training, to foreclosure processes; and (5) failing to sufficiently oversee outside counsel and other third-party providers handling foreclosure-related services.16 Congress has held significant detailed hearings on the issue of servicer “robo-signing” of foreclosure related documentation.17

15OCC Press Release, OCC Takes Enforcement Action Against Eight Servicers for Unsafe and Unsound Foreclosure Practices (April 13, 2011), available at:http://www.occ.treas.gov/news-issuances/news-releases/2011/nr-occ-2011-47.html, and Federal Reserve Board Press Release, Federal Reserve Issues Enforcement Actions Related to Deficient Practices in Residential Mortgage Loan Servicing (April 13, 2011), available at:http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/enforcement/20110413a.htm, and accompanying documents. In addition to enforcement actions against major servicers, Federal agencies have also undertaken formal enforcement actions against major service providers to mortgage servicers. Seeid.

16Seeid.None of the servicers admitted or denied the OCC's or Federal Reserve Board's findings.

17 See, e.g., Problems in Mortgage Servicing From Modification to Foreclosure: Hearings Before the Comm. on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs,S. Hrg. 111-987, 111th Cong. 53-54 (2010) (statement of Diane E. Thompson, NCLC) (Thompson Testimony).

Servicers have also misled, or failed to communicate with, borrowers, lost or mishandled borrower-provided documents supporting loan modification requests, and generally provided inadequate service to delinquent borrowers. These problems became pervasive in broad segments of the mortgage servicing industry and had profound impacts on borrowers, particularly delinquent borrowers.18

18 SeeU.S. Government Accountability Office,Troubled Asset Relief Program: Further Actions Needed to Fully and Equitably Implement Foreclosure Mitigation Actions,at 14-16 (Jun, 2010); Miller Testimony at 54.

The Bureau further understands from mortgage investors that there is a pervasive belief that servicers are making discretionary decisions based on the best interests of the servicer rather than to achieve results that will benefit owners or assignees of mortgages loans. When servicers hold a second lien that is behind a first lien owned by a different owner or assignee, one study has found a lower likelihood of liquidation and modification, and a higher likelihood of inaction by a servicer.19 Specifically, “liquidation and modification of securitized first mortgages are 60% [to] 70% less likely respectively and no action is 13% more likely when the servicer of that securitized first mortgage holds on its portfolio the second lien attached to the first mortgage.”20 These failures to take actions that may benefit both consumers and owners or assignees of first lien mortgage loans harm consumers.

19Sumit Agarwalet al.,Second Liens and the Holdup Problem in First Mortgage Renegotiation (Dec, 2011), available athttp://ssrn.com/abstract=2022501.

20 Id.

The mortgage servicing industry, however, is not monolithic. Some servicers provide high levels of customer service. Some of these servicers may be compensated by investors in a way that incentivizes them to provide high levels of customer service in order to optimize investor outcomes. Other servicers provide high levels of customer service because they rely on providing other products and services to consumers and thus have an interest in preserving their reputations and relationships with their consumers. For example, as discussed further below, small servicers that the Bureau consulted as part of a process required under SBREFA described their businesses as requiring a “high touch” model of customer service both to ensure loan performance and maintain a strong reputation in their local communities.21

21 SeeFinal Report of the Small Business Review Panel on CFPB's Proposals Under Consideration for Mortgage Servicing Rulemaking (Small Business Review Panel Report) (Jun, 11, 2012). A copy of the report is available at:http://www.consumerfinance.gov.

B. Mortgage Servicing Consumer Protection Regulation Before the Recent Crisis

Prior to the adoption of the Dodd-Frank Act, the mortgage servicing industry was subject to limited Federal consumer financial protection regulation. RESPA set forth basic protections with respect to mortgage servicing that were implemented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These included required disclosures at application concerning whether the lender intended to service the mortgage loan and disclosures upon an actual transfer of servicing rights.22 RESPA further imposed substantive and disclosure requirements for escrow account management and required servicers to respond to “qualified written requests”—written error resolution or information requests relating to a restricted definition of the “servicing” of the borrower's mortgage loan.23

22 See12 U.S.C. 2605(a)-(e).

23 See12 U.S.C. 2605(e) and 2609.

TILA set forth requirements on creditors that were implemented by servicers, including disclosures regarding interest rate adjustments on adjustable rate mortgage loans. Regulation Z, which implements TILA, was amended by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the Board) to include certain limited requirements directly on servicers, such as requirements to timely credit payments, provide payoff balances and prohibit pyramiding of late fees.24 Servicers also had some obligations under other Federal laws, including, for example, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.25

24 See12 CFR 1026.36(c).

25 See50 U.S.C. App. 501et seq.

Although TILA and RESPA did not impose many requirements on servicers, servicers were still required to navigate overlapping requirements governing their servicing responsibilities. In addition to Federal law, servicers were required to consider the impact of State and even local regulation on mortgage servicing. Servicers also had to comply with investor requirements to the extent they serviced loans owned or guaranteed by various types of entities. These include (1) servicing guidelines required by Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), together known as the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), as well as servicing guidelines required by the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae); (2) government insured programguidelines issued by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Rural Housing Service; (3) contractual agreements with investors (such as pooling and servicing agreements and subservicing contracts); and (4) bank or institution policies. All those requirements remain in effect today and going forward.

C. The National Mortgage Settlement and Other Regulatory Actions

In response to the unprecedented mortgage crisis and pervasive problems in mortgage servicing, including the systemic violation of State foreclosure laws by many of the largest servicers, State and Federal regulators have engaged in a number of individual servicing related enforcement and regulatory actions over the last few years and have begun discussions about comprehensive national standards.

For example, 49 State attorneys general,26 joined by numerous Federal agencies including the Bureau, entered into a National Mortgage Settlement (National Mortgage Settlement) with the nation's five largest servicers in February 2012.27 The National Mortgage Settlement applies to loans held in portfolio and serviced by the five largest servicers. Loans owned by GSEs, private investors, or smaller servicers are not covered by the settlement.

26Oklahoma elected not to join the settlement.

27The National Mortgage Settlement is available at:http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com/.The five servicers subject to the settlement are Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, CitiMortgage, and Ally/GMAC.

Exhibit A to each of the settlements is a Settlement Term Sheet, which sets forth standards that each of the five largest servicers must follow to comply with the terms of the settlement.28 The settlement standards contained in the Settlement Term Sheet are sub-divided into the following eight categories: (1) Foreclosure and bankruptcy information and documentation; (2) third-party provider oversight; (3) bankruptcy; (4) loss mitigation; (5) protections for military personnel; (6) restrictions on servicing fees; (7) force-placed insurance; and (8) general servicer duties and prohibitions.

28 See http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com/.

In addition to the settlement, other Federal regulatory agencies have issued guidance on mortgage servicing and loan modifications,29 conducted coordinated reviews of the nation's largest servicers,30 and taken enforcement actions against individual companies.31 The Bureau and other Federal agencies have also engaged since spring 2011 in informal discussions about the potential development of national mortgage servicing standards through regulations and guidance.

29Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Bulletin 2011-29 (Jun. 30, 2011), available at:http://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/bulletins/2011/bulletin-2011-29.html; Letter from Edward J. DeMarco, Acting Director of FHFA, to Hon. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives (Jan. 20, 2012), available at:http://www.fhfa.gov/webfiles/23056/PrincipalForgivenessltr12312.pdf; Guidance, Home Affordable Modification Program, available at:https://www.hmpadmin.com/portal/programs/guidance.jsp.FHFA, Frequently Asked Questions—Servicing Alignment Initiative, available at:http://www.fhfa.gov/webfiles/21191/FAQs42811Final.pdf.

30 SeeInteragency Foreclosure Report, a joint review of foreclosure processing of 14 federally regulated mortgage servicers during the fourth quarter of 2010 by the Federal Reserve System, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and Office of Thrift Supervision.

31 SeeInteragency Foreclosure Report at 5; Federal Reserve Board, Press Release (May 24, 2012), available at:http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/enforcement/20120524a.htm; Federal Reserve Board, Press Release (Feb. 27, 2012), available at:http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/enforcement/20120227a.htm; Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, News Release 2011-47 (Apr. 13, 2011), available at:http://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/news-releases/2011/nr-occ-2011-47.html .

The Bureau's proposed rules under Regulation Z and X represent another important step towards establishing uniform minimum national standards. When adopted in final form, the Bureau's rules will apply to all mortgage servicers, whether depository institutions or non-depository institutions, and to all segments of the mortgage market, regardless of the ownership of the loan. The proposals focus both on implementing the specific mortgage servicing requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act and on addressing broader systemic problems that the Bureau believes are critical to ensure that the mortgage servicing market functions to serve consumer needs. To that end, the proposed TILA and RESPA mortgage servicing rules incorporate elements from four categories of the National Mortgage Settlement—(1) foreclosure and bankruptcy information and documentation, (4) loss mitigation, (6) restrictions on servicing fees, and (7) force-placed insurance. In addition, the proposed requirement to maintain reasonable information management policies and procedures addresses oversight of service providers, which impacts category (2) of the settlement.

The Bureau continues to consider whether to incorporate other settlement standards into rules or guidance, either alone or in conjunction with other Federal regulatory agencies; certain requests for comment in this proposal reflect these considerations. The Bureau is also continuing ongoing discussions with other regulators to ensure appropriate coordination of rulemaking and other initiatives relating to mortgage servicing issues.

D. The Statutory Requirements and Additional Proposals

The Dodd-Frank Act mandates several protections for homeowners in the servicing of their loans. The Act requires new disclosures, specifically periodic statements (unless coupon books are provided in certain circumstances), notices prior to the reset of adjustable-rate mortgages, and force-placed insurance notices. These disclosures are designed to provide consumers with comprehensive and comprehensible information when they need it and in a form they can use, so they can better manage their obligations and avoid unnecessary problems.

The Dodd-Frank Act also imposes new requirements on servicers to respond in a timely way to borrowers who assert that their servicer made an error. The statue also requires servicers to respond in a timely way to borrower requests for information.

The Dodd-Frank Act contains requirements relating to the prompt crediting of payments, so that consumers are not wrongly penalized with late fees or other fees because servicers did not credit their payments quickly. The statute also requires servicers to provide timely responses to consumer requests for payoff amounts, so consumers can get this information when they need it, such as when refinancing.

The Bureau is proposing additional standards to improve the way servicers treat all borrowers, including delinquent borrowers. Some servicers have made it very difficult for delinquent borrowers to explore and take advantage of potential alternatives to foreclosure. For example, servicers have frequently neglected to reach out or respond to such borrowers to discuss alternatives to foreclosure, lost or misplaced the documents of borrowers who have sought modifications or other relief, failed to keep track of borrower communications, and forced borrowers who have invested substantial time communicating with an employee of the servicer to repeat the process with a different employee.32

32 See, e.g.,Larry Cordellet al., The Incentives of Mortgage Servicers: Myths and Realities,at 9 (Federal Reserve Board, Working Paper No. 2008-46, Sept. 2008).

To address these concerns, the Bureau is proposing new servicing standards infour areas. First, servicers would have to establish and maintain information management policies and procedures that would have to be reasonably designed to achieve certain objectives and address certain obligations, including accessing and providing accurate information, evaluating borrowers for loss mitigation options, facilitating oversight of, and compliance by, service providers, and facilitating servicing transfers. Second, servicers would have to intervene early with delinquent borrowers to provide them with information about, and encourage them to explore, available alternatives to foreclosure. Third, servicers would have to provide delinquent borrowers with a point of contact on the servicer's staff that provides continuity in the borrowers' dealings with the servicer. At such point of contact, staff must have access to complete records about that borrower, including records of prior communications with the borrower, and be able to assist the borrower in pursuing loss mitigation options.

Fourth, servicers that offer loss mitigation options in the ordinary course of business would be required to follow certain procedures to ensure that borrowers' completed loss mitigation applications are evaluated in a timely manner, that borrowers are notified of the results, and that borrowers have a right to appeal the denial of a loan modification option. Servicers would also be required to provide borrowers who submit incomplete loss mitigation applications with timely notice about the additional documents or information needed to make a loss mitigation application complete.

The Bureau recognizes that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be optimal with regard to either the mandated or additional requirements. As discussed below, the Bureau seeks comment on to what extent it may be appropriate to adjust these standards for small servicers.

III. Summary of Statute and Rulemaking Process A. Overview of the Statute

The Dodd-Frank Act imposes certain new requirements related to mortgage servicing. Some of these new requirements are amendments to RESPA addressed in this proposal and others are amendments to TILA.

RESPA amendments.Section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act imposes a number of new servicing related requirements under RESPA that broadly relate to force-placed insurance and error resolution/responses to requests for information. First, the statute prohibits a servicer from obtaining force-placed hazard insurance, unless there is a reasonable basis to believe the borrower has failed to comply with the loan contract's requirement to maintain property insurance. A servicer may not impose any charge on any borrower for force-placed insurance with respect to any property secured by a federally related mortgage, unless the servicer sends, by first-class mail, two written notices to the borrower, at least 30 days apart. The notices must remind borrowers of their obligation to maintain hazard insurance on the property, alert borrowers to the servicer's lack of evidence of insurance coverage, tell borrowers what they must do to demonstrate that they have coverage, and state that the servicer may obtain coverage at the borrower's expense if the borrower fails to provide evidence of coverage. Servicers must terminate force-placed insurance coverage and refund to borrowers any premiums charged during any period when the borrower had private insurance coverage. The statute also provides that all charges imposed on the borrower related to force-placed insurance, apart from charges subject to State regulation as the business of insurance, must be bona fide and reasonable.

Second, the statute prohibits certain acts and practices by servicers of federally related mortgages with regard to resolving errors and responding to requests for information. Specifically, the statute prohibits servicers of federally related mortgages from charging fees for responding to valid qualified written requests. The statute also provides that a servicer of a federally related mortgage must not fail to take timely action to respond to a borrower's requests to correct errors relating to: Allocation of payments, final balances for purposes of paying off the loan, avoiding foreclosure, or other standard servicer duties.

Finally, the statue requires a servicer of a federally related mortgage to respond within ten business days to a request from a borrower to provide the identity, address, and other relevant contact information about the owner or assignee of the loan. The statue also reduces the amount of time that servicers of federally related mortgages have to correct errors and respond to inquiries generally, as well as refund escrow accounts upon payoff.33

33Other changes in section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act relate to increases in penalties for violations. These provisions are not addressed in this rulemaking.

In addition, the statute provides that a servicer of a federally related mortgage must “comply with any other obligation found by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, by regulation, to be appropriate to carry out the consumer protection purposes of this Act.”34 This provision gives the Bureau broad authority to adopt additional regulations to govern the conduct of servicers of federally related mortgage loans. In light of the systemic problems in the mortgage servicing industry, the Bureau is proposing to exercise this authority to require servicers of federally related mortgages to: Establish reasonable information management policies and procedures; undertake early intervention with delinquent borrowers; provide delinquent borrowers with continuity of contact with staff equipped to assist them; and require servicers that offer loss mitigation options in the ordinary course of business to follow certain procedures when evaluating loss mitigation applications.

3412 U.S.C. 2605(k)(1)(E).

TILA amendments.There are three new mortgage servicing requirements under TILA. First, for closed-end credit transactions secured by a consumer's principal residence, section 1418 of the Dodd-Frank Act adds a new section 128A to TILA. TILA section 128A states that, for hybrid ARMs with a fixed interest rate for an introductory period that adjusts or resets to a variable interest rate at the end of such period, a notice must be provided six months prior to the initial adjustment of the interest rate for closed-end credit transactions secured by a consumer's principal residence. Section 1418 of the Dodd-Frank Act permits the Bureau to extend this requirement to ARMs that are not hybrid ARMs.

Second, section 1420 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which adds section 128(f) to TILA, requires the creditor, assignee, or servicer of any residential mortgage loan to transmit to the borrower, for each billing cycle, a periodic statement that sets forth certain specified information in a conspicuous and prominent manner. The statute also gives the Bureau the authority to require additional content to be included in the periodic statement. The statute provides an exception to the periodic statement requirement for fixed-rate loans where the borrower is given a coupon book containing substantially the same information as the statement.

Third, section 1464 of the Dodd-Frank Act adds sections 129F and 129G to TILA, which generally codify existing Regulation Z requirements for the prompt crediting of mortgage payments received by servicers in connection withconsumer credit transactions secured by a consumer's dwelling. The statute also requires a creditor or servicer to send accurate and timely responses to borrower requests for payoff amounts for home loans.

The statutory provisions with enumerated mortgage servicing requirements become effective on January 21, 2013, unless final rules are issued on or before that date.

B. Outreach and Consumer Testing

The Bureau has conducted extensive outreach in developing the mortgage servicing proposals. Bureau staff met with mortgage servicers, force-placed insurance carriers, industry trade associations, consumer advocates, other Federal regulatory agencies, and other interested parties to discuss various aspects of the statute and the servicing industry.

In preparing this proposed rule, the Bureau solicited input from small servicers through a Small Business Review Panel (Small Business Review Panel) with the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).35 The Small Business Review Panel's findings and recommendations are contained in the Final Report of the Small Business Review Panel on CFPB's Proposals Under Consideration for Mortgage Servicing Rulemaking (Small Business Review Panel Report).36

35The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) requires the Bureau to convene a Small Business Review Panel before proposing a rule that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.SeePublic Law 104-121, tit. II, 110 Stat. 847, 857 (1996) (as amended by Public Law 110-28, sec. 8302 (2007)).

36 SeeSmall Business Review Panel Report (Jun. 11, 2012). A copy of the report is available at:http://www.consumerfinance.gov.

The Bureau also engaged in other meetings and roundtables with a variety of other stakeholders to gather factual information about the servicing industry and to discuss various elements of the Bureau's proposals as they were being developed. As discussed above and in connection with section 1022 of the Dodd-Frank Act below, the Bureau has also consulted with relevant Federal regulators both regarding the Bureau's specific proposals and the need for and potential contents of national mortgage servicing standards in general. As it considers public comment and works to develop final rules on mortgage servicing, the Bureau will continue to seek input from all interested parties.

In addition, the Bureau engaged ICF Macro (Macro), a research and consulting firm that specializes in designing disclosures and consumer testing, to conduct one-on-one cognitive interviews regarding disclosures connected with mortgage servicing. During the first quarter of 2012, the Bureau and Macro worked closely to develop and test disclosures that would satisfy the requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act and provide information to consumers in a manner that would be understandable and useful. These disclosures related to the ARM notices, the force-placed insurance notices, and the periodic statements. Macro conducted three rounds of one-on-one cognitive interviews with a total of 31 participants in the Baltimore, Maryland metro area (Towson, Maryland), Memphis, Tennessee, and Los Angeles, California. Participants were all consumers who held a mortgage loan and represented a range of ages and education levels. Efforts were made to recruit a significant number of participants who had trouble making mortgage payments in the last two years. During the interviews, participants were shown disclosure forms for periodic statements, ARM interest rate adjustment notices for the new disclosures required by Dodd-Frank Act section 1418, and force-placed insurance notices. Participants were asked specific questions to test their understanding of the information presented in each of the disclosures, how easily they could find various pieces of information presented in each of the disclosures, as well as to learn about how they would use the information presented in each of the disclosures. The disclosures were revised after each round of testing. Specific findings from the consumer testing are discussed in detail throughout theSUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATIONwhere relevant.37

37A copy of the Macro report on consumer testing is available at:http://www.consumerfinance.gov/notice-and-comment/.

C. Other Dodd-Frank Act Mortgage-Related Rulemakings

Including this proposal, the Bureau currently is engaged in seven rulemakings relating to mortgage credit to implement requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act:

TILA-RESPA Integration:On July 9, 2012, the Bureau released proposed rules and forms combining the TILA mortgage loan disclosures with the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and settlement statement required under RESPA, pursuant to Dodd-Frank Act section 1032(f) as well as sections 4(a) of RESPA and 105(b) of TILA, as amended by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1098 and 1100A, respectively. 12 U.S.C. 2603(a); 15 U.S.C. 1604(b) (the 2012 TILA-RESPA Proposal).38

38Available at:http://www.consumerfinance.gov/notice-and-comment/.

HOEPA:On July 9, 2012, the Bureau released proposed rules to implement Dodd-Frank Act requirements expanding protections for “high-cost” mortgage loans under HOEPA, pursuant to TILA sections 103(bb) and 129, as amended by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1431 through 1433. 15 U.S.C. 1602(bb) and 1639.39 Such loans have requirements on servicers of “high-cost” mortgage loans related to payoff statements, late fees, prepayment penalties, and fees for loan modifications or deferrals.

39 Id.

Loan Originator Compensation:The Bureau is in the process of developing a proposal to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring certain creditors and mortgage loan originators to meet duty of care qualifications and prohibiting mortgage loan originators, creditors, and the affiliates of both from receiving compensation in various forms (including based on the terms of the transaction) and from sources other than the consumer, with specified exceptions, pursuant to TILA section 129B as established by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1402 through 1405. 15 U.S.C. 1639b.

Appraisals:The Bureau, jointly with Federal prudential regulators and other Federal agencies, is in the process of developing a proposal to implement Dodd-Frank Act requirements concerning appraisals for higher-risk mortgages, appraisal management companies, and automated valuation models, pursuant to TILA section 129H as established by Dodd-Frank Act section 1471, 15 U.S.C. 1639h, and sections 1124 and 1125 of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) as established by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1473(f), 12 U.S.C. 3353, and 1473(q), 12 U.S.C. 3354, respectively. In addition, the Bureau is developing rules to implement section 701(e) of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), as amended by Dodd-Frank Act section 1474, to require that creditors provide applicants with a free copy of written appraisals and valuations developed in connection with applications for loans secured by a first lien on a dwelling (collectively, Appraisals Rulemaking). 15 U.S.C. 1691(e).

Ability to Repay:The Bureau is in the process of finalizing a proposal issued by the Board to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring creditors to determine that a consumer can repay a mortgage loan and establishing standards for compliance, such as by making a “qualified mortgage,” pursuant to TILA section 129C as established by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1411 and 1412 (ATR Rulemaking). 15 U.S.C. 1639c.

Escrows:The Bureau is in the process of finalizing a proposal issued by the Board to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring certain escrow account disclosures and exempting from the higher-priced mortgage loan escrow requirement loans made by certain small creditors, among other provisions, pursuant to TILA section 129D as established by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1461 and 1462 (Escrows Rulemaking). 15 U.S.C. 1639d.

With the exception of the requirements being implemented in the 2012 TILA-RESPA Proposal, the Dodd-Frank Act requirements referenced above generally will take effect on January 21, 2013, unless final rules implementing those requirements are issued on or before that date and provide for a different effective date. To provide an orderly, coordinated, and efficient comment process, the Bureau is generally setting the deadlines for comments on this and other proposed mortgage rules based on the date the proposal is issued, instead of the date this notice is published in theFederal Register. Therefore, the Bureau is providing 60 days for comment on those proposals, which will ensure that the Bureau receives comments with sufficient time remaining to issue final rules by January 21, 2013. Because the precise date this notice will be published cannot be predicted in advance, setting the deadlines based on the date of issuance will allow interested parties that intend to comment on multiple proposals to plan accordingly.

The Bureau regards the foregoing rulemakings as components of a larger undertaking; many of them intersect with one or more of the others. Accordingly, the Bureau is coordinating carefully the development of the proposals and final rules identified above. Each rulemaking will adopt new regulatory provisions to implement the various Dodd-Frank Act mandates described above. In addition, each of them may include other provisions the