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CFPB releases report concerning top reverse mortgage complaints

The CFPB recently released a report highlighting top reverse mortgage complaints, and how to protect yourself and loved ones.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released a report highlighting top complaints with regards to reverse mortgages.

The top complaints include: frustration with loan terms, foreclosure problems, and receiving the runaround from servicers. Due to these complaints, the CFPB has issued an advisory with tips on how to plan ahead to protect loved ones from financial hardships brought on by a reverse mortgage.

Consumer complaints are rolling in

CFPB Director, Richard Corday stated, “consumer complaints tell us that the complex terms of reverse mortgages continue to be misunderstood.”

“As more baby boomers choose reverse mortgages to tap into their home equity,” he added, “they need to understand the unique terms and features of this product. Our advisory can help those who have already chosen reverse mortgages to plan ahead for loved ones.”

Reverse mortgages are likely to increase

The report cites that reverse mortgages only account for approximately one percent of the mortgage marketplace with approximately 628,000 outstanding loans. However, the number of reverse mortgages is likely to increase in upcoming years as the baby boomers approach retirement.

Studies have estimated that “among Americans 55 to 64 years old, 41 percent have no retirement savings account, but around 74 percent own their own home and have accrued good equity.” For these homeowners, several options are available to access this equity: refinancing their original mortgage, taking out a home equity loan or line of credit, selling or downsizing their home, or obtaining a reverse mortgage.

Clearing up some common misconceptions

For those owners in need of the latter option, the CFPB report covers 1,200 reverse mortgage complaints received from December 1, 2011 to December 31, 2014. Many complaints seem to stem from misunderstandings between the consumers expectations and the way the reverse mortgage actually functions.

In lieu of these misunderstandings, here are a few things yourself, or your family members should be aware of: reverse mortgages prohibit spouses, heirs, and dependents from taking over the loan. This can be an issue if a family member wants to keep the home. Many family members complained to the CFPB as they were not able to be added to the loan and save the home. Reverse mortgage loan amounts are partly calculated using a borrower’s age and the loan repayment is initiated when the last borrower passes away or moves out. Given the age of most reverse mortgage applicants, it behooves the mortgage companies not to allow any subsequent applicants, so they can begin collecting payment.

When the borrower does pass away, heirs should be able to sell the home, repay the loan balance, or pay 95 percent of the property’s assessed value; however, consumers complained that loan servicers do not provide a clear process to allow them to settle the debt. There were also complaints regarding appraisal delays, improperly performed appraisals, and inflated home values. Also, complaints were made against loan servicers including unanswered calls and a lack of response to written requests.

Another surprising fact

Another surprising fact: 10 percent of reverse mortgage borrowers are at risk of foreclosure because they failed to pay property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. While reverse mortgages require no monthly payment, the borrower is still responsible for the aforementioned payments. Complaints to the CFPB described unsuccessful attempts to halt foreclosure by paying overdue taxes, servicers incorrectly filing overdue taxes when they were current, and overall keeping of inaccurate records.

Stay safe, protect yourself

To protect yourself and your loved ones, you can do several different things. First, verify who is on the loan and make sure all records are accurate. If the reverse mortgage is only in one spouse’s name, check with the loan servicer to see if the non-borrowing spouse qualifies for a repayment deferral. Plans should be in place in the event the borrowing spouse passes away first. If the loan was created after August 4, 2014, changes to the HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage) program will allow the non-borrowing spouse to remain in the home, provided they meet certain conditions. Also, make sure any surviving family members or children living in the home know what to expect and who to contact when the reverse mortgage is due. For the rest of the CFPB’s guidelines regarding reverse mortgages, their advisory is here.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Politics

Evictions are mounting, affecting renters and landlords

(POLITICS) Eviction moratoriums both ending and extending are causing ripple effects of economic trouble for renters and landlords.

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The United States continues to struggle to find a balance between public health protections to slow the spread of coronavirus and economic measures to prevent Americans from bankruptcy as a result.

While eviction bans initially provided relief for renters who lost jobs and couldn’t afford rent payments, the effects bounced up to property owners who lost those payments. Though the first coronavirus stimulus package renter protections extended to landlords, property owners say banks are still expecting mortgage payments as the relief expires. Many worry the expiration of the additional $600 added to unemployment will exacerbate the problem.

In Texas, the statewide eviction moratorium ended in May. Unlike other major cities which chose to use funds from the federal coronavirus stimulus package to pay for legal representation for tenants, Houston let local protections for tenants expire with the moratorium.

In Houston, there is little recourse for tenants served with an eviction notice. Tenants only have five days to appeal, and there is no legal defense for a tenant who can’t pay at least one month’s rent to the court registry. As a result, tenants facing eviction often surrender and leave. Unfortunately, the result is tenants moving in temporarily with friends and family while they look for new housing, causing overcrowding and presenting a health risk to everyone involved. The CDC has specifically named “poverty and crowding” as a top risk factor for COVID-19.

However, not all evictions are the result of unpaid rent. Marie Baptiste, a landlord in Randolph, Massachusetts reported to the Boston Globe that she has lost recourse against a tenant who not only stopped paying rent long before the pandemic started, but caused water damage and a rat infestation. The tenant argues the structural problems were her reason for withholding rent.

Consequently, Baptiste says she is now $19,000 in the hole for this property, and can do nothing about it. In July, Governor Charlie Baker extended the eviction moratorium to mid-October. In a survey conducted by MassLandlords, one-fifth of landlords are uncertain how they will keep up with mortgage payments. Many fear they will be forced to sell or face foreclosure without relief.

Without protections for both tenants and individual property owners, the eviction moratoriums could have long-term consequences for housing in large cities. Urban centers, already struggling with rent inflation and lack of affordable units as large developers take over, could see this problem exacerbated for years to come. It is imperative that the next stimulus package consider how relief for both renters and property owners can be leveraged to prevent these challenges.

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Politics

COVID-19: NAR’s fight for independent contractor relief

(POLITICS) Economic relief is on its way for the self-employed and independent contractors like Realtors, with NAR pushing politicians to pay attention.

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Earlier this week the U.S. Senate passed an unprecedented $2 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package. The bill is now in the U.S. House and is expect to be signed by the President without any issues.

Self-employed and independent contractors have been anxious about the bill since talks began. It would not be the first time theses types of workers were left out of key economic legislation. As the majority of the nation’s realtors are self-employed or commission-based, they have been hit hard by the economic effects of COVID-19.

Just last week home buyer disinterest tripled; few are looking to buy a home right now and social distancing restrictions have made it difficult to attract new clients or show property.

Realtors want to do their part to stop the spread of the virus, but just like everyone else, they need support during this difficult time.

During the last several weeks, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has been in constant discussion with lawmakers to ensure that these groups are taken into account for the economic relief package.

NAR Senior VP of Government Affairs, Shannon McGahn stated, “We have worked closely with Congressional leaders and the administration during the past several weeks to ensure all three bills bring relief to the self-employed, independent contractors, and small businesses. The real estate industry is responsible for millions of jobs and is key to our national recovery.”

The economic relief package includes $350 billion for the Small Business Administration 7(a) loan program. Under the terms, eligible small businesses, which in this case are those that have 500 employees or fewer, can receive up to $10 million toward mortgage interest, rents, utilities, and payroll costs. A portion of these loans will be forgivable.

In addition to relief through the loan program, self-employed and independent contractors will be able to take advantage of unemployment insurance benefits. This program could cover benefits for up to 39 weeks, a huge relief as many find themselves and their businesses suddenly devoid of cashflow.

This is the third relief package to be signed into law, with a fourth expected to be signed in the coming months. These are stressful COVID-19 times and no bill will ever be perfect, but some relief is on its way. 
 

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Politics

COVID-19: Senate passes the relief bill, now it’s in the House’s hands

(POLITICS) Many people heard that the Senate passed a relief bill, but don’t quite understand that it’s not a done deal. Now the House gets to add their input.

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The House can’t seem to agree on the COVID-19 relief bill. Yesterday, the Senate and the White House came to an agreement on a $2 trillion economic stimulus package. Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has publicly stated that the House will be reviewing the bill, but there is no commitment as to whether the bill will pass or not. The Hill reported that some House Democrats are concerned that they have not provided any input.

What’s in the measure?

According to CBS News, the actual text of the measure hasn’t been released, but they did get information from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about some of the contents:

  • Expanded unemployment benefits to boost the maximum benefit and to give laid-off workers full pay for four months
  • Direct payments to individuals making less than $99,000
  • $130 billion for hospitals
  • $367 billion in loans for small business
  • $150 billion for state and local governments
  • $500 billion for large businesses
  • Creates an oversight board to govern large loans
  • Prohibitions to prevent President Trump and family from getting federal relief

Will the measure pass?

Pelosi has said that this relief bill is a big improvement over the Republican’s first proposal. It seems as if she is working hard to move the measure through the House, but given the current state of politics, it’s hard to believe that anything will be done without some debate. 

Many Democrats have pushed for a food stamp increase, which is not in the current measure. However, the Democrats did win on the oversight board that protects the employees of the companies who are getting loans. Money for states was another Democrat victory in the current measure.

If the bill can pass the House unanimously, lawmakers won’t have to vote on the floor.

If the House can’t agree, the House will need to reconvene and amend the Senate measure or pass their own measure.

Under the COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine issues, it might be difficult to get anything done quickly. The urgency is real, but so is the responsibility. Representatives want the money to do what Congress intends, not for CEO compensation or stock buyouts.

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