Mortgage Servicing Rules Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (Regulation X)
Final Rule; Official Interpretations.
The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection is amending Regulation X, which implements the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974, and implementing a commentary that sets forth an official interpretation to the regulation. The final rule implements provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act regarding mortgage loan servicing. Specifically, this final rule implements Dodd-Frank Act sections addressing servicers' obligations to correct errors asserted by mortgage loan borrowers; to provide certain information requested by such borrowers; and to provide protections to such borrowers in connection with force-placed insurance. Additionally, this final rule addresses servicers' obligations to establish reasonable policies and procedures to achieve certain delineated objectives; to provide information about mortgage loss mitigation options to delinquent borrowers; to establish policies and procedures for providing delinquent borrowers with continuity of contact with servicer personnel capable of performing certain functions; and to evaluate borrowers' applications for available loss mitigation options. Further, this final rule modifies and streamlines certain existing servicing-related provisions of Regulation X. For instance, this final rule revises provisions relating to mortgage servicers' obligation to provide disclosures to borrowers in connection with transfers of mortgage servicing, and mortgage servicers' obligation to manage escrow accounts, including restrictions on purchasing force-placed insurance for certain borrowers with escrow accounts and requirements to return amounts in an escrow account to a borrower upon payment in full of a mortgage loan. Concurrently with the issuance of this final rule, the Bureau is issuing a rule implementing amendments relating to mortgage servicing to the Truth in Lending Act in Regulation Z.
1 action from July 2012
Table of Contents Back to Top
- FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
- SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
- I. Summary of the Final Rule
- A. Major Topics in the Final Servicing Rules
- B. Scope of the Final Servicing Rules
- II. Background
- A. Overview of the Mortgage Servicing Market and Market Failures
- B. The National Mortgage Settlement and Other Regulatory Requirements
- C. RESPA and Regulation X
- D. The Dodd-Frank Act
- III. Summary of the Rulemaking Process
- A. Outreach and Consumer Testing
- B. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act
- C. Summary of the Proposed Servicing Rule
- D. Overview of the Comments Received
- E. Other Dodd-Frank Act Mortgage-Related Rulemakings
- Coordinated Implementation of Title XIV Rulemakings
- IV. Legal Authority
- Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act
- V. Section-by-Section Analysis
- Subpart A—General
- Subpart B—Mortgage Settlements and Escrow Accounts
- Section 1024.17Escrow Accounts
- 17(k) Timely Payments
- 17(l) System of Recordkeeping
- Section 1024.18Validity of contracts and liens
- Section 1024.19Enforcement
- Subpart C—Mortgage Servicing
- Section 1024.21Mortgage Servicing Transfers
- Section 1024.22Severability
- Section 1024.23E-Sign Applicability
- Section 1024.30Scope
- Section 1024.31Definitions
- Section 1024.32General Disclosure Requirements
- Section 1024.33Mortgage Servicing Transfers
- 33(a) Servicing Disclosure Statement
- 33(b) Notice of Transfer of Loan Servicing
- 33(b)(1) Requirements for Notice and 33(b)(2) Certain Transfers Excluded
- 33(b)(3) Time of the Notice
- 33(b)(3)(i) In General
- Timing of the Transferor and Transferee Notices
- 33(b)(3)(ii) Extended Time
- 33(b)(3)(iii) Notice Provided at Settlement
- 33(b)(4) Contents of Notice
- 33(b)(4)(ii) and (b)(4)(iii)
- 33(c)Borrower Payments During Transfer of Servicing
- 33(c)(1)Payments Not Considered Late
- 33(c)(2)Treatment of Payments
- 33(d)Preemption of State Laws
- Section 1024.34Timely Escrow Payments and Treatment of Escrow Account Balances In General
- 34(a)Timely Escrow Disbursements Required
- 34(b)Refunds of Escrow Balance
- 34(b)(1)In General
- 34(b)(2)Servicer May Credit Funds to a New Escrow Account
- Section 1024.35Error Resolution Procedures
- Legal Authority
- 35(a) Notice of Error
- Substance Over Form
- Qualified Written Requests
- Oral Notices of Error
- Borrower's Representative
- 35(b) Scope of Error Resolution
- Limited List
- Covered Errors
- 35(b)(9) and 35(b)(10)
- 35(c) Contact Information for Borrowers To Assert Errors
- Multiple Offices
- Internet Intake of Notices of Error
- 35(d) Acknowledgment of Receipt
- 35(e) Response to Notice of Error
- 35(e)(1) Investigation and Response Requirements
- Notices to Borrower
- Multiple Responses
- Different or Additional Error
- 35(e)(2) Requesting Information From Borrower
- 35(e)(3) Time Limits
- Shortened Time Limit To Correct Errors Relating to Payoff Balances
- Shortened Time Limit To Correct Certain Errors Relating to Foreclosure
- Extensions of Time Limit
- 35(e)(4) Copies of Documentation
- 35(f) Alternative Compliance
- 35(f)(1) Early Correction
- 35(f)(2) Errors Asserted Before Foreclosure Sale
- 35(g) Requirements Not Applicable
- 35(g)(1) In General
- 35(g)(2) Notice to Borrower
- 35(h) Payment Requirements Prohibited
- 35(i) Effect on Servicer Remedies
- Adverse Information
- Ability To Pursue Foreclosure
- Section 1024.36Requests for Information
- Legal Authority
- 36(a) Information Requests
- Qualified Written Requests
- Oral Information Requests
- Borrower's Representative
- Information Subject to Information Request Procedures
- Owner or Assignee
- 36(b) Contact Information for Borrowers To Request Information
- Multiple Offices
- Internet Intake of Information Requests
- 36(c) Acknowledgment of Receipt
- 36(d) Response to Information Request
- 36(d)(1) Investigation and Response Requirements
- Information Not Available
- 36(d)(2) Time Limits
- Shortened Time Limit To Provide Information Regarding the Identity of the Owner or Assignee
- Extensions of Time Limits
- 36(e) Alternative Compliance
- 36(f) Requirements not Applicable
- 36(f)(1) In General
- 36(f)(2) Notice to Borrower
- 36(g) Payment Requirement Limitations
- 36(h) Servicer Remedies
- Section 1024.37Force-Placed Insurance
- Legal Authority
- 37(a) Definition of Force-Placed Insurance
- 37(a)(1) In General
- 37(a)(2) Types of Insurance Not Considered Force-Placed Insurance
- 37(a)(2)(ii) and (iii)
- 37(b) Basis for Charging a Borrower for Force-Placed Insurance
- 37(c) Requirements for Charging Borrower Force-Placed Insurance
- 37(c)(1) In General
- 37(c)(2) Content of Notice
- 37(c)(3) Format
- 37(d) Reminder Notice
- 37(d)(1) In General
- 37(d)(2) Content of Reminder Notice
- 37(d)(3) Format
- 37(d)(4) Updating Notice With Borrower Information
- 37(e) Renewal or Replacement of Force-Placed Insurance
- 37(e)(1) In general
- 37(e)(2) Content of Renewal Notice
- 37(e)(3) Format
- 37(e)(4) Compliance
- 37(f) Mailing the Notices
- 37(g) Cancellation of Force-Placed Insurance
- 37(h) Limitation on Force-Placed Insurance Charges
- 37(i) Relationship to Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973
- Section 1024.38 General Servicing Policies, Procedures, and Requirements
- Legal Authority
- 38(a) Reasonable Policies and Procedures
- 38(b) Objectives
- 38(b)(1) Accessing and Providing Timely and Accurate Information
- 38(b)(2) Properly Evaluating Loss Mitigation Applications
- 38(b)(3) Facilitating Oversight of, and Compliance by, Service Providers
- 38(b)(4) Facilitating Transfer of Information During Servicing Transfers
- 38(b)(5) Informing Borrowers of Written Error Resolution and Information Request Procedures
- 38(c) Standard Requirements
- 38(c)(1) Record Retention
- 38(c)(2) Servicing File
- Section 1024.39Early Intervention Requirements for Certain Borrowers
- Legal Authority
- 39(a) Live Contact
- Proposed § 1024.39(a)
- Final § 1024.39(a)
- Good Faith Efforts
- 36th Day of Delinquency
- 39(b) Written Notice
- 39(b)(1) Notice Required
- 45th Day of Delinquency
- Frequency of the Notice
- 39(b)(2) Content of the Written Notice
- In General
- Statement Encouraging the Borrower to Contact the Servicer
- Contact Information for the Servicer
- Brief Description of Loss Mitigation Options
- Explanation of How the Borrower May Obtain More Information About Loss Mitigation Options
- Foreclosure Statement
- Contact Information for Housing Counselors and State Housing Finance Authorities
- 39(b)(3) Model Clauses
- 39(c) Conflicts With Other Law
- Section 1024.40Continuity of Contact
- Legal Authority
- Proposed 40(a)
- Final 1024.40(a)
- Proposed 40(b)
- New 40(b)
- Proposed 40(c)
- Proposed 40(d)
- Section 1024.41 Loss mitigation procedures
- Mandating Specific Loss Mitigation Criteria
- Restricting Dual Tracking
- Appropriate Timelines for the Loss Mitigation Procedures
- Other Servicer Loss Mitigation Requirements
- Legal Authority
- 41(a) Enforcement and Limitations
- 41(b) Loss Mitigation Application
- 41(c) Evaluation of Loss Mitigation Applications
- Eligibility Criteria
- Evaluation of Incomplete Loss Mitigation Applications
- 41(d) Denial of Loan Modification Options
- 41(e) Borrower Response
- 41(e)(1) In General
- 41(e)(2) Rejection
- 41(e)(2)(i) In General
- 41(e)(2)(ii) Trial Loan Modification Plan
- 41(e)(2)(iii) Interaction With Appeal Process
- 41(f) Prohibition on Foreclosure Referral
- 41(g) Prohibition on Foreclosure Sale
- 41(h) Appeal Process
- 41(i) Duplicative Requests
- 41(j) Other Liens (Withdrawn)
- 41(j) Small Servicers
- Supplement I to Part 1024
- Legal Authority
- Appendix MS
- Appendix MS-2—Model Form for Mortgage Servicing Transfer Disclosure
- Appendix MS-3—Model Force-Placed Insurance Notice Forms
- Appendix MS-4—Model Clauses for the Written Early Intervention Notice
- VI. Effective Date
- VII. Dodd-Frank Act Section 1022(b)(2) Analysis
- A. Overview
- B. Provisions To Be Analyzed
- C. Data and Quantification of Benefits, Costs and Impacts
- D. Baseline for Analysis
- E. Coverage of the Final Rule
- Size of the Small Servicer Exemption
- F. Potential Benefits and Costs to Consumers and Covered Persons
- 1. Notices of Error and Requests for Information
- 2. Requirements Regarding Force-Placed Insurance Policies
- 3. General Servicing Policies, Procedures, and Requirements
- 4. Requirements Regarding Early Intervention
- 5. Procedures for Continuity of Contact With Delinquent Borrowers
- 6. Loss Mitigation Procedures
- Restricting But Not Eliminating Dual Tracking
- Consideration for All Alternatives for Which Borrowers Are Eligible
- G. Potential Specific Impacts of the Final rule
- 1. Depository Institutions and Credit Unions With $10 Billion or Less in Total Assets, as Described in Dodd-Frank Section 1026
- 2. Impact of the Provisions on Consumer Access to Credit and on Consumers in Rural Areas
- VIII. Regulatory Flexibility Act
- 1. A Statement of the Need For, and Objectives of, the Rule
- 2. Summary of Significant Issues Raised by Comments in Response to the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
- 3. Response to the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration Comment
- 4. A Description of and An Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule Will Apply
- 5. Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements
- Recordkeeping Requirements
- Compliance Requirements
- (a) Force-Placed Insurance
- (b) Error Resolution and Response to Inquiries
- (c) General Servicing Standards
- (d) Early Intervention for Delinquent Borrowers
- (e) Continuity of Contact
- (f) Loss Mitigation
- (g) Estimate of the Classes of Small Entities Which Will Be Subject to the Requirement
- 6-1. Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities
- (a) Force-Placed Insurance
- (b) Error Resolution and Response to Inquiries
- (c) Reasonable Information Management Policies and Procedures
- (d) Early Intervention for Delinquent Borrowers
- (e) Continuity of Contact
- (f) Loss Mitigation
- 6-2. Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize Any Additional Cost of Credit for Small Entities
- IX. Paperwork Reduction Act
- A. Information Collection Requirements
- B. Analysis of the Bureau's Information Collection Requirements 
- 1. Mortgage Servicing Transfers
- 2. Force-Placed Insurance Disclosures
- 3. Error Resolution and Requests for Information
- 4. Early Intervention With Delinquent Borrowers
- 5. General Servicing Policies Procedures, and Requirements
- 6. Loss Mitigation
- B. Summary of Burden Hours
- List of Subjects in 12 CFR Part 1024
- Authority and Issuance
- PART 1024—REAL ESTATE SETTLEMENT PROCEDURES ACT (REGULATION X)
- Subpart A—General
- Subpart B—Mortgage Settlement and Escrow Accounts
- Subpart C—Mortgage Servicing
- Subpart C—Mortgage Servicing
- Appendix MS-2 to Part 1024
- Notice of Servicing Transfer
- Appendix MS-3 to Part 1024
- Model Force-Placed Insurance Notice Forms
- Table of Contents
- MS-3(A)—Model Form for Force-Placed Insurance Notice Containing Information Required By § 1024.37(c)(2)
- MS-3(C)—Model Form for Force-Placed Insurance Notice Containing Information Required By § 1024.37(d)(2)(ii)
- MS-3(D)—Model Form for Renewal or Replacement of Force-Placed Insurance Notice Containing Information Required By to § 1024.37(e)(2)
- Appendix MS-4—Model Clauses for the Written Early Intervention Notice
- MS-4(A)—Statement Encouraging the Borrower To Contact the Servicer and Additional Information About Loss Mitigation Options (§ 1024.39(b)(2)(i), (ii) and (iv))
- MS-4(B)—Available Loss Mitigation Options (§ 1024.39(b)(2)(iii))
- MS-4(C)—Housing Counselors (§ 1024.39(b)(2)(v))
- Supplement I to Part 1024—Official Bureau Interpretations
- Subpart A—General Provisions
- Subpart B—Mortgage Settlement and Escrow Accounts
- Subpart C—Mortgage Servicing
- § 1024.30—Scope
- § 1024.31—Definitions
- § 1024.33—Mortgage Servicing Transfers
- § 1024.34—Timely Escrow Payments and Treatment of Escrow Balances
- § 1024.35—Error Resolution Procedures
- § 1024.36—Requests for Information
- § 1024.37—Force-Placed Insurance
- Section 1024.38—General Servicing Policies, Procedures, and Requirements
- § 1024.39—Early Intervention Requirements for Certain Borrowers
- § 1024.40—Continuity of Contact
- § 1024.41—Loss mitigation options.
- Appendix MS—Mortgage Servicing Model Forms and Clauses
- Appendix MS-3—Model Force-Placed Insurance Notice Forms
- Appendix MS-4—Model Clauses for the Written Early Intervention Notice
DATES: Back to Top
This final rule is effective on January 10, 2014.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Back to Top
Regulation X (RESPA): Whitney Patross, Attorney; Jane Gao, Terry Randall or Michael Scherzer, Counsels; Lisa Cole or Mitchell E. Hochberg, Senior Counsels, Office of Regulations, at (202) 435-7700.
Regulation Z (TILA): Whitney Patross, Attorney; Marta Tanenhaus or Mitchell E. Hochberg, Senior Counsels, Office of Regulations, at (202) 435-7700.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Back to Top
I. Summary of the Final Rule Back to Top
The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau) is amending Regulation X, which implements the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974, and implementing a commentary that sets forth an official interpretation to the regulation (the 2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule). The final rule implements provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act regarding mortgage loan servicing.  Specifically, this final rule implements Dodd-Frank Act sections addressing servicers' obligations to correct errors asserted by mortgage loan borrowers; to provide certain information requested by such borrowers; and to provide protections to such borrowers in connection with force-placed insurance. Additionally, this final rule addresses servicers' obligations to establish reasonable policies and procedures to achieve certain delineated objectives; to provide information about mortgage loss mitigation options to delinquent borrowers; to establish policies and procedures for providing delinquent borrowers with continuity of contact with servicer personnel capable of performing certain functions; and to evaluate borrowers' applications for available loss mitigation options. Further, this final rule modifies and streamlines certain existing servicing-related provisions of Regulation X. For instance, this final rule revises provisions relating to mortgage servicers' obligation to provide disclosures to borrowers in connection with a transfer of mortgage servicing, and mortgage servicers' obligation to manage escrow accounts, including restrictions on purchasing force-placed insurance for certain borrowers with escrow accounts and requirements to return amounts in an escrow account to a borrower upon payment in full of a mortgage loan. Concurrently with the issuance of this final rule, the Bureau is issuing a rule implementing amendments relating to mortgage servicing to the Truth in Lending Act in Regulation Z (the 2013 TILA Servicing Final Rule).
On August 10, 2012, the Bureau issued proposed rules that would have amended Regulation X, which implements RESPA,  as well as Regulation Z, which implements TILA,  regarding mortgage servicing requirements.  The Proposed Servicing Rules proposed to implement the Dodd-Frank Act amendments to TILA and RESPA with respect to, among other things, periodic mortgage statements, disclosures for ARMs, prompt crediting of mortgage loan payments, requests for mortgage loan payoff statements, error resolution, information requests, and protections relating to force-placed insurance. In the 2012 RESPA Servicing Proposal, the Bureau also proposed to use its authority to adopt requirements relating to servicer policies and procedures, early intervention with delinquent borrowers, continuity of contact, and procedures for evaluating and responding to loss mitigation applications.  The proposals sought to address fundamental problems that underlie many consumer complaints and recent regulatory and enforcement actions, as set forth in more detail below.
The Bureau is finalizing the Proposed Servicing Rules with respect to nine major topics, as summarized below, as well as certain technical and streamlining amendments. The goals of the Final Servicing Rules are to provide better disclosure to consumers of their mortgage loan obligations and to better inform consumers of, and assist consumers with, options that may be available for consumers having difficulty with their mortgage loan obligations. The amendments also address critical servicer practices relating to, among other things, correcting errors, imposing charges for force-placed insurance, crediting mortgage loan payments, and providing payoff statements. The Bureau's final rules are set forth in two separate notices because some provisions implement requirements that Congress imposed under TILA while other provisions implement requirements Congress imposed under RESPA. 
A. Major Topics in the Final Servicing Rules Back to Top
1. Periodic billing statements (2013 TILA Servicing Final Rule). Creditors, assignees, and servicers must provide a periodic statement for each billing cycle containing, among other things, information on payments currently due and previously made, fees imposed, transaction activity, application of past payments, contact information for the servicer and housing counselors, and, where applicable, information regarding delinquencies. These statements must meet the timing, form, and content requirements provided in the rule. The rule contains sample forms that may be used. The periodic statement requirement generally does not apply to 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 specified in the rule is made available to the consumer. The rule also includes an exemption for small servicers as discussed below.
2. Interest rate adjustment notices (2013 TILA Servicing Final Rule). Creditors, assignees, and servicers must provide a consumer whose mortgage has an adjustable rate with a notice between 210 and 240 days prior to the first payment due after the rate first adjusts. This notice may contain an estimate of the new rate and new payment. Creditors, assignees, and servicers also must provide a notice between 60 and 120 days before payment at a new level is due when a rate adjustment causes the payment to change. The current annual notice that must be provided for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) for which the interest rate, but not the payment, has changed over the course of the year is no longer required. The rule contains model and sample forms that servicers may use.
3. Prompt payment crediting and payoff statements (2013 TILA Servicing Final Rule). Servicers must promptly credit periodic payments from borrowers as of the day of receipt. A periodic payment consists of principal, interest, and escrow (if applicable). If a servicer receives a payment that is less than the amount due for a periodic payment, the payment may be held in a suspense account. When the amount in the suspense account covers a periodic payment, the servicer must apply the funds to the consumer's account. In addition, creditors, assignees, and servicers must provide 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 (2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule). Servicers are prohibited from charging a borrower for force-placed insurance coverage unless the servicer has a reasonable basis to believe the borrower has failed to maintain hazard insurance, as required by the loan agreement, and has provided required notices. An initial notice must be sent to the borrower at least 45 days before charging the borrower for force-placed insurance coverage, and a second reminder notice must be sent no earlier than 30 days after the first notice. The rule contains model forms that servicers may use. If a borrower provides proof of hazard insurance coverage, the servicer must cancel any force-placed insurance policy and refund any premiums paid for overlapping periods in which the borrower's coverage was in place. The rule also provides that charges related to force-placed insurance (other than those subject to State regulation as the business of insurance or authorized by Federal law for flood insurance) must be for a service that was actually performed and must bear a reasonable relationship to the servicer's cost of providing the service. Where the borrower has an escrow account for the payment of hazard insurance premiums, the servicer is prohibited from obtaining force-place insurance where the servicer can continue the borrower's homeowner insurance, even if the servicer needs to advance funds to the borrower's escrow account to do so. The rule against obtaining force-placed insurance in cases in which hazard insurance may be maintained through an escrow account exempts small servicers, as discussed below, so long as any force-placed insurance purchased by the small servicer is less expensive to a borrower than the amount of any disbursement the servicer would have made to maintain hazard insurance coverage.
5. Error resolution and information requests (2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule). Servicers are required to meet certain procedural requirements for responding to written information requests or complaints of errors. The rule requires servicers to comply with the error resolution procedures for certain listed errors as well as any error relating to the servicing of a mortgage loan. Servicers may designate a specific address for borrowers to use. Servicers generally are required to acknowledge the request or notice of error within five days. Servicers also generally are required to correct the error asserted by the borrower and provide the borrower written notification of the correction, or to conduct an investigation and provide the borrower written notification that no error occurred, within 30 to 45 days. Further, within a similar amount of time, servicers generally are required to acknowledge borrower written requests for information and either provide the information or explain why the information is not available.
6. General servicing policies, procedures, and requirements (2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule). Servicers are required to establish policies and procedures reasonably designed to achieve objectives specified in the rule. The reasonableness of a servicer's policies and procedures takes into account the size, scope, and nature of the servicer's operations. Examples of the specified objectives include accessing and providing accurate and timely information to borrowers, investors, and courts; properly evaluating loss mitigation applications in accordance with the eligibility rules established by investors; facilitating oversight of, and compliance by, service providers; facilitating transfer of information during servicing transfers; and informing borrowers of the availability of written error resolution and information request procedures. In addition, servicers are required to retain records relating to each mortgage loan until one year after the mortgage loan is discharged or servicing is transferred, and to maintain certain documents and information for each mortgage loan in a manner that enables the services to compile it into a servicing file within five days. This section includes an exemption for small servicers as discussed below. The Bureau and prudential regulators will be able to supervise servicers within their jurisdiction to assure compliance with these requirements but there will not be a private right of action to enforce these provisions.
7. Early intervention with delinquent borrowers (2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule). Servicers must establish or make good faith efforts to establish live contact with borrowers by the 36th day of their delinquency and promptly inform such borrowers, where appropriate, that loss mitigation options may be available. In addition, a servicer must provide a borrower a written notice with information about loss mitigation options by the 45th day of a borrower's delinquency. The rule contains model language servicers may use for the written notice. This section includes an exemption for small servicers as discussed below.
8. Continuity of contact with delinquent borrowers (2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule). Servicers are required to maintain reasonable policies and procedures with respect to providing delinquent borrowers with access to personnel to assist them with loss mitigation options where applicable. The policies and procedures must be reasonably designed to ensure that a servicer assigns personnel to a delinquent borrower by the time a servicer provides such borrower with the written notice required by the early intervention requirements, but in any event, by the 45th day of a borrower's delinquency. These personnel should be accessible to the borrower by phone to assist the borrower in pursuing loss mitigation options, including advising the borrower on the status of any loss mitigation application and applicable timelines. The personnel should be able to access all of the information provided by the borrower to the servicer and provide that information, when appropriate, to those responsible for evaluating the borrower for loss mitigation options. This section includes an exemption for small servicers as discussed below. The Bureau and the prudential regulators will be able to supervise servicers within their jurisdiction to assure compliance with these requirements but there will not be a private right of action to enforce these provisions.
9. Loss Mitigation Procedures (2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule). Servicers are required to follow specified loss mitigation procedures for a mortgage loan secured by a borrower's principal residence. If a borrower submits an application for a loss mitigation option, the servicer is generally required to acknowledge the receipt of the application in writing within five days and inform the borrower whether the application is complete and, if not, what information is needed to complete the application. The servicer is required to exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining documents and information to complete the application.
For a complete loss mitigation application received more than 37 days before a foreclosure sale, the servicer is required to evaluate the borrower, within 30 days, for all loss mitigation options for which the borrower may be eligible in accordance with the investor's eligibility rules, including both options that enable the borrower to retain the home (such as a loan modification) and non-retention options (such as a short sale). Servicers are free to follow “waterfalls” established by an investor to determine eligibility for particular loss mitigation options. The servicer must provide the borrower with a written decision, including an explanation of the reasons for denying the borrower for any loan modification option offered by an owner or assignee of a mortgage loan with any inputs used to make a net present value calculation to the extent such inputs were the basis for the denial. A borrower may appeal a denial of a loan modification program so long as the borrower's complete loss mitigation application is received 90 days or more before a scheduled foreclosure sale.
The rule restricts “dual tracking,” where a servicer is simultaneously evaluating a consumer for loan modifications or other alternatives at the same time that it prepares to foreclose on the property. Specifically, the rule prohibits a servicer from making the first notice or filing required for a foreclosure process until a mortgage loan account is more than 120 days delinquent. Even if a borrower is more than 120 days delinquent, if a borrower submits a complete application for a loss mitigation option before a servicer has made the first notice or filing required for a foreclosure process, a servicer may not start the foreclosure process unless (1) the servicer informs the borrower that the borrower is not eligible for any loss mitigation option (and any appeal has been exhausted), (2) a borrower rejects all loss mitigation offers, or (3) a borrower fails to comply with the terms of a loss mitigation option such as a trial modification.
If a borrower submits a complete application for a loss mitigation option after the foreclosure process has commenced but more than 37 days before a foreclosure sale, a servicer may not move for a foreclosure judgment or order of sale, or conduct a foreclosure sale, until one of the same three conditions has been satisfied. In all of these situations, the servicer is responsible for promptly instructing foreclosure counsel retained by the servicer not to proceed with filing for foreclosure judgment or order of sale, or to conduct a foreclosure sale, as applicable.
This section includes an exemption for small servicers as defined above. However, a small servicer is required to comply with two requirements: (1) A small servicer may not make the first notice or filing required for a foreclosure process unless a borrower is more than 120 days delinquent, and (2) a small servicer may not proceed to foreclosure judgment or order of sale, or conduct a foreclosure sale, if a borrower is performing pursuant to the terms of a loss mitigation agreement.
All of the provisions in the section relating to loss mitigation can be enforced by individuals. Additionally, the Bureau and the prudential regulators can also supervise servicers within their jurisdiction to assure compliance with these requirements.
B. Scope of the Final Servicing Rules
The Final Servicing Rules have somewhat different scopes, with respect to the types of mortgage loan transactions covered and the loans that are exempted. With respect to the 2013 TILA Servicing Final Rule, certain requirements, specifically the periodic statement and ARM disclosure requirements, only apply to closed-end mortgage loans, whereas other requirements, specifically the requirements for crediting of payments and providing payoff statements, apply to both open-end and closed-end mortgage loans. Reverse mortgage transactions and timeshare plans are exempt from the periodic statement requirement. ARMs with terms of one year or less are exempt from the ARM disclosure requirements.
With respect to the 2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule, certain requirements generally apply to federally related mortgage loans that are closed-end, with certain exemptions for loans on property of 25 acres or more, business-purpose loans, temporary financing, loans secured by vacant land, and certain loan assumptions or conversions. Open-end lines of credit (home equity plans) are generally exempt from the requirements in the 2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule. The general servicing policies, procedure, and requirements, early intervention, continuity of contact, and loss mitigation procedures provisions are generally inapplicable to servicers of reverse mortgage transactions or to servicers of mortgage loans for which the servicers are also qualified lenders under the Farm Credit Act of 1971.
In the 2013 TILA Servicing Final Rule, the Bureau is exercising its authority under TILA to provide an exemption from the periodic statement requirement for small servicers, defined as servicers that service 5,000 mortgage loans or less and only service mortgage loans the servicer or an affiliate owns or originated (small servicers). In this 2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule, the Bureau has elected not to extend to these small servicers most provisions of the Final Rule that are not being promulgated to implement specific mandates in the Dodd-Frank Act but are, instead, being issued by the Bureau, in the exercise of its discretion, pursuant to its discretionary rulemaking authority under RESPA, as amended by the Dodd-Frank Act, and title X of the Dodd-Frank Act. The exemptions from the discretionary rulemakings include those relating to general servicing policies, procedures, and requirements; early intervention with delinquent borrowers; continuity of contact; and most of the requirements for evaluating and responding to loss mitigation applications. Further, the Bureau is not restricting small servicers from purchasing force-placed insurance for borrowers with escrow accounts for the payment of hazard insurance, so long as the cost to the borrower of the force-placed insurance obtained by a small servicer is less than the amount the small servicer would be required to disburse from the borrower's escrow account to ensure that the borrower's hazard insurance premium charges were paid in a timely manner. Small servicers are required to comply with limited loss mitigation procedure requirements. These include (1) a prohibition on making the first notice or filing required for a foreclosure process unless a borrower is more than 120 days delinquent and (2) a prohibition on making the first notice or filing or moving for foreclosure judgment or order of sale, or conducting a foreclosure sale, when a borrower is performing pursuant to the terms of a loss mitigation agreement. The exemptions applicable to small servicers in the 2013 TILA Servicing Rule and the 2013 RESPA Servicing Rule are also being extended to Housing Finance Agencies, without regard to the number of mortgage loans serviced by any such agency, and these agencies are included within the definition of small servicer.
II. Background Back to Top
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.  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.  Over 60 percent of mortgage loans are serviced by mortgage servicers for investors.
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.  Given the nature of their activities, servicers can have a direct and profound impact on borrowers.
Mortgage servicing is performed by banks, thrifts, credit unions, and non-banks 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. 
These different servicing structures can create difficulties for borrowers if a servicer makes mistakes, fails to invest sufficient resources in its servicing operations, or avoids opportunities to work with borrowers for the mutual benefit of both borrowers and owners or assignees of mortgage loans. Although the mortgage servicing industry has numerous participants, the industry is highly concentrated, with the five largest servicers servicing approximately 53 percent of outstanding mortgage loans in this country.  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. 
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 owners or assignees of mortgage loans can transfer servicing rights to a different servicer. Further, servicer contracts govern servicer requirements to advance payments to owners of mortgage loans, and to recoup advances made by servicers, including from ultimate recoveries on liquidated properties.
Compensation structures vary somewhat for loans held in portfolio and securitized loans,  but have tended to make pure mortgage servicing (where the servicer has no role in origination) a high-volume, low-margin business. Such compensation structures incentivize servicers to ensure that investment in operations closely tracks servicer expectations of delinquent accounts, and an increase in the number of delinquent accounts a servicer must service beyond that projected by the servicer strains available servicer resources. A servicer will expect to recoup its investment in purchasing mortgage servicing rights and earn a profit primarily through a net servicing fee (which is typically expressed as a constant rate assessed on unpaid mortgage balances), 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 will have limited incentives to provide other customer service. Servicers greatly vary in the extent to which they invest in customer service infrastructure. For example, servicer staffing ratios have varied between approximately 100 loans per full-time employee to over 4,000 loans per full time employee.  Servicers are generally not subject to market discipline from consumers because consumers have little opportunity to switch servicers. Rather, servicers compete to obtain business from the owners of loans—investors, assignees, and creditors—and thus competitive pressures tend to drive servicers to lower the price of servicing and scale their investment in providing service to consumers accordingly.
Servicers also earn revenue from fees assessed on borrowers, including fees on late payments, fees for obtaining force-placed insurance, and fees for services, such as responding to telephone inquiries, processing telephone payments, and providing payoff statements.  As a result, servicers have an incentive to look for opportunities to impose fees on borrowers to enhance revenues.
These attributes of the servicing market created problems for certain borrowers even prior to the financial crisis. For example, borrowers experienced problems with mortgage servicers even during regional mortgage market downturns that preceded the financial crisis.  There is evidence that borrowers were subjected to improper fees that servicers had no reasonable basis to impose, improper force-placed insurance practices, and improper foreclosure and bankruptcy practices. 
When the financial crisis erupted, many servicers—and especially the larger servicers with their scale business models—were ill-equipped to handle the high volumes of delinquent mortgages, loan modification requests, and foreclosures they were required to process. Mortgage loan delinquency rates nearly doubled between 2007 and 2009 from 5.4 percent of first-lien mortgage loans to 9.4 percent of first-lien mortgage loans.  Many servicers lacked the infrastructure, trained staff, controls, and procedures needed to manage effectively the flood of delinquent mortgages they were forced to handle.  One study of complaints to the HOPE Hotline reported that over half of the complaints (27,000 out of 48,000) were from borrowers who could not reach their servicers and obtain information about the status of applications they had submitted for options to avoid foreclosure. 
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 (OCC) and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board), following on-site reviews of foreclosure processing at 14 federally regulated mortgage servicers, found significant deficiencies at each of the servicers reviewed. As a result, the OCC and the Board undertook formal enforcement actions against several major servicers for unsafe and unsound residential mortgage loan servicing practices.  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 foreclosure 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 oversee sufficiently outside counsel and other third-party providers handling foreclosure-related services. 
Other investigations of servicers have found similar problems. For example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found pervasive problems in broad segments of the mortgage servicing industry impacting delinquent borrowers, such as servicers who have 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. It has been recognized in Inspector General reports, and the Bureau has learned from outreach with mortgage investors, that servicers may be acting to maximize their self-interests in the handling of delinquent borrowers, rather than the interests of owners or assignees of mortgage loans. 
The mortgage servicing industry, however, is not monolithic. Some servicers provide high levels of customer service. Some of these servicers are compensated by investors in a way that incentivizes them to provide this level of service in order to optimize investor outcomes.  Other servicers provide high levels of customer service because they are servicing loans of their own retail customers within their local community or (in the case of credit unions) membership base. These servicers seek to provide other products and services to consumers—and to others within the community or membership base—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 the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (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. 
B. The National Mortgage Settlement and Other Regulatory Requirements
In response to the unprecedented financial 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, the Federal government, joined by 49 State attorneys general,  entered into settlements with the nation's five largest servicers in February 2012 (the National Mortgage Settlement).  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.  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.
Apart from the National Mortgage Settlement, Federal regulatory agencies have also issued guidance on mortgage servicing and loan modifications,  conducted coordinated reviews of the nation's largest servicers,  and taken enforcement actions against individual companies.  Further, the Bureau and other Federal agencies have been engaged since spring 2011 in informal discussions about the potential development of national mortgage servicing standards through interagency regulations and guidance.
Servicers are currently required to navigate overlapping requirements governing their servicing responsibilities. Servicers must comply with requirements established by owners or assignees of mortgage loans. These include, as applicable, (1) servicing guidelines required by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae; (2) government insured program guidelines 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.
Servicers are also required to consider the impact of State and even local regulation on mortgage servicing. Significantly, New York, California, and Oregon have all adopted varying statutory or regulatory restrictions on mortgage servicers. For example, the Superintendent of Banks of the State of New York repeatedly adopted short-term emergency regulations governing mortgage servicers on a continuous basis since July 2010.  These regulations impose obligations on servicers with respect to, among other things, consumer complaints and inquiries, statements of accounts, crediting of payments, payoff balances, and loss mitigation procedures.  The California Homeowner Bill of Rights, which was enacted in 2012, imposes requirements on servicers with respect to evaluations of borrowers for loss mitigation options before various foreclosure documents may be filed for California's non-judicial foreclosure process.  Further, Oregon implemented regulations on mortgage servicers not to engage in unfair or deceptive conduct by: assessing fees for payments made on or before a payment due date; assessing or collecting fees not authorized by a security instrument or mortgage, misrepresenting information relating to a loan modification or set forth in an affidavit, declaration, or other sworn statement detailing a borrower's default and the servicer's right to foreclose; failing to comply with certain provisions of RESPA; or failing to deal with a borrower in good faith.  Further, Massachusetts has recently proposed new regulations to protect consumers with respect to mortgage servicing practices, including with respect to loss mitigation procedures. 
C. RESPA and Regulation X
Congress originally enacted the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 (RESPA) based on findings that significant reforms in the real estate settlement process were needed to ensure that consumers are provided with greater and more timely information on the nature and costs of the residential real estate settlement process and are protected from unnecessarily high settlement charges caused by certain abusive practices found by Congress. See 12 U.S.C. 2601(a). In 1990, Congress amended RESPA by adding a new section 6 covering persons responsible for servicing federally related mortgage loans and imposing on such servicers certain obligations.  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.  RESPA section 6 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 the “servicing” of the borrower's mortgage loan. 
Section 19(a) of RESPA authorizes the Bureau (and formerly directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)) to prescribe such rules and regulations, to make such interpretations, and to grant such reasonable exemptions for classes of transactions, as may be necessary to achieve the purposes of RESPA. See 12 U.S.C. 2617(a).
Historically, Regulation X, 24 CFR part 3500, implemented RESPA. General rulemaking authority for RESPA transferred to the Bureau on July 21, 2011. See sections 1061 and 1098 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act and RESPA, as amended, the Bureau published for public comment an interim final rule establishing a new Regulation X, 12 CFR part 1024, implementing RESPA. 76 FR 78978 (Dec. 20, 2011). The Bureau's Regulation X took effect on December 30, 2011. The requirements in section 6 of RESPA for mortgage servicing are implemented primarily by § 1024.21.
D. The Dodd-Frank Act
The Dodd-Frank Act imposes certain new requirements related to mortgage servicing. As set forth above, some of these new requirements are amendments to RESPA addressed in this final rule and others are amendments to TILA, addressed in the 2013 TILA Servicing Final Rule.
Section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act added new sections 6(k), 6(l), and 6(m) to RESPA. 12 U.S.C. 2605. Sections 6(k)(1)(A), 6(k)(2), 6(l) and 6(m) impose restrictions on servicers with respect to force-placed insurance. Specifically, section 6(k)(1)(A) of RESPA provides that a servicer may not obtain force-placed hazard insurance with respect to any property secured by a federally related mortgage unless there is a reasonable basis to believe the borrower has failed to comply with the loan contract's requirement to maintain property insurance. Further, under section 6(l) of RESPA, a servicer is deemed not to have a reasonable basis for obtaining force-placed insurance, unless the servicer sends to the borrower, by first-class mail, two written notices. The first notice must be sent at least 45 days before imposing on the borrower any charge for force-placed insurance, and the second notice must be sent at least 30 days after the first written notice and at least 15 days before imposing on the borrower any charge for force-placed insurance. 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 provide proof of hazard insurance coverage, and state that the servicer may obtain coverage at the borrower's expense if the borrower fails to provide evidence of coverage. Under section 6(l)(3) of RESPA, within fifteen days of receipt by a servicer of a borrower's existing insurance coverage, servicers must terminate force-placed insurance coverage and refund to the borrower any premiums charged during any period when the borrower had hazard insurance in place. Finally, section 6(m) of RESPA requires 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.
Section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act further added section 6(k)(1)(B)-(D) of RESPA, which prohibits certain acts and practices by servicers of federally related mortgage loans with regard to responding to borrower assertions of error and requests for information. Specifically, section 6(k)(1)(B) of RESPA prohibits servicers from charging fees for responding to valid qualified written requests. Section 6(k)(1)(C) of RESPA provides that a servicer of a federally related mortgage loan must not fail to take timely action to respond to a borrower's requests to correct errors relating to: (1) Allocation of payments; (2) final balances for purposes of paying off the loan; (3) avoiding foreclosure; or (4) other standard servicer duties. Finally, section 6(k)(1)(D) provides that a servicer must 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. In addition, section 1463(c) amends section 6(e) of RESPA to reduce the amount of time within which servicers must correct errors and respond to requests for information. Section 1463(b) and (d) of the Dodd-Frank Act amended sections 6(f) and 6(g) of RESPA with respect to penalties for violation of section 6 of RESPA, and refund of escrow account balances, respectively. 
Finally, section 1463(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act adds section 6(k)(1)(E) to RESPA, which provides that a servicer of a federally related mortgage loan must “comply with any other obligation found by the [Bureau], by regulation, to be appropriate to carry out the consumer protection purposes of this Act.”  This provision provides the Bureau authority to establish prohibitions on servicers of federally related mortgage loans appropriate to carry out the consumer protection purposes of RESPA. As discussed below, in light of the systemic problems in the mortgage servicing industry discussed above, the Bureau is exercising this authority in this rulemaking to implement protections for borrowers with respect to mortgage servicing.
Section 1022(b)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act authorizes the Bureau to prescribe rules “as may be necessary or appropriate to enable the Bureau to administer and carry out the purposes and objectives of the Federal consumer financial laws, and to prevent evasions thereof[.]” 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(1). RESPA and title X of the Dodd-Frank Act are Federal consumer financial laws. Accordingly, the Bureau proposed to exercise its authority under section 1022(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act to prescribe rules to carry out the purposes of RESPA and title X and prevent evasion of those laws.
III. Summary of the Rulemaking Process Back to Top
A. Outreach and Consumer Testing
The Bureau has conducted extensive outreach in developing the Final Servicing Rules. Prior to issuing the Proposed Servicing Rules on August 10, 2012, Bureau staff met with consumers, consumer advocates, mortgage servicers, force-placed insurance carriers, industry trade associations, other Federal regulatory agencies, and other interested parties to discuss various aspects of the statute, servicing industry operations, and consumer harm impacts. Outreach included meetings with numerous individual servicers to understand their operations and the potential benefits and burdens of the proposed mortgage servicing rules. 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 rules and the need for and potential contents of national mortgage servicing standards in general.
Further, 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 (Advocacy) and the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  The Small Business Review Panel's findings and recommendations are contained in the Small Business Review Panel Report.  The Bureau has adopted recommendations provided by the participants on the Small Business Review Panel and includes below a discussion of such recommendations in connection with the applicable requirement.
Further, prior to the issuing the Proposed Servicing Rules on August 10, 2012, 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 force-placed insurance notices set forth in this rule, as well as the ARM interest rate adjustment notices and the periodic statement disclosure set forth in the 2013 TILA Servicing Final Rule.
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, 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, and how they would use the information presented in each of the disclosures. The disclosures were revised after each round of testing.
After the Bureau issued the Proposed Servicing Rules, Macro conducted a fourth round of one-on-one cognitive interviews with eight participants in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Again, participants were consumers who held a mortgage loan and represented a range of ages and education levels. During the interviews, participants were asked to review two different versions of a servicing transfer notice and early intervention model clauses, which relate to requirements the Bureau is implementing under RESPA. Participants were asked specific questions to test their reaction to and understanding of the content of the servicing transfer notice and the early intervention model clauses. This process was repeated for each of the five clauses being tested. Specific findings from the consumer testing are discussed in detail throughout where relevant. 
One commenter, identifying itself as a research organization, observed that the consumer testing the Bureau has conducted with respect to the mortgage servicing disclosures follows the path of evidence-based decision-making. This commenter asserted, however, that the Bureau should consider undertaking steps in evaluating the proposed forms, including possibly undertaking additional testing because other consumer financial disclosures, including the forms the Bureau proposed with the 2012 TILA-RESPA Proposal, have gone through more testing. At the same time, however, the commenter observed that the decreased level of testing might be justified on various grounds, such as, for example, the fact that studies have found that small numbers of individuals can identify the vast majority of usability problems, the fact that the testing was done with participants familiar with mortgages, and the fact that the Bureau is working on a tight schedule to finalize rules by January 21, 2013 when statutory provisions would go into effect.
The Bureau believes that the testing it conducted is appropriate. The Bureau observes that the forms the Bureau proposed as part of the 2012 TILA-RESPA Proposal contained significantly more complicated financial information than the forms finalized as part of the current rulemakings. Additionally, the 2012 TILA-RESPA Proposal, when finalized, would substantially change consumers' mortgage shopping experience; by contrast, the Final Mortgage Servicing Rules are intended to improve, but not substantially alter, consumers' experience with their mortgage servicers. These differences, in terms of level of complication and degree of change from current practice, justify the different levels of resources the Bureau allocated to the two different testing projects. Lastly, Macro's findings show that there was notable consistency across the different rounds of testing in terms of participant comprehension that, in combination with the Bureau's expertise and knowledge of consumer understanding and behavior, gave the Bureau confidence to rely on the forms that were developed and refined through testing as a basis for the model forms included in the Final Servicing Rules.
The Bureau further emphasizes that it is not relying solely on the consumer testing to determine that any particular disclosure will be effective. The Bureau is also relying on its knowledge of, and expertise in, consumer understanding and behavior, as well as principles of effective disclosure design.
B. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act
As required by SBREFA, the Bureau convened a Small Business Review 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. Thus, on April 9, 2012, the Bureau provided Advocacy with the formal notification and other information required under section 609(b)(1) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) to convene the panel.
In order to obtain feedback from small servicers, the Bureau, in consultation with Advocacy, identified five categories of small entities that may be subject to the proposed rule: Commercial banks/savings institutions, credit unions, non-depositories engaged primarily in lending funds with real estate as collateral, non-depositories primarily engaged in loan servicing, and certain non-profit organizations. The Bureau, in consultation with Advocacy, selected 16 representatives to participate in the Small Business Review Panel process from the categories of entities that may be subject to the Proposed Servicing Rules. The participants included representatives from each of the categories identified by the Bureau and comprised a diverse group of individuals with regard to geography and type of locality (i.e., rural, urban, suburban, or metropolitan areas), as described in chapter 7 of the Small Business Review Panel Report.
On April 10, 2012, the Bureau convened the Small Business Review Panel. In order to collect the advice and recommendations of small entity participants, the Panel held an outreach meeting/teleconference on April 24, 2012 (Panel Outreach Meeting). To help the small entity participants prepare for the Panel Outreach Meeting, the Panel circulated briefing materials that summarized the proposals under consideration at that time, posed discussion issues, and provided information about the SBREFA process generally.  All 16 small entities participated in the Panel Outreach Meeting either in person or by telephone. The Small Business Review Panel also provided the small entities with an opportunity to submit written feedback until May 1, 2012. In response, the Small Business Review Panel received written feedback from 5 of the representatives. 
On June 11, 2012, the Small Business Review Panel submitted to the Director of the Bureau the written Small Business Review Panel Report, which includes the following: Background information on the proposals under consideration at the time; information on the types of small entities that would be subject to those proposals and on the participants who were selected to advise the Small Business Review Panel; a summary of the Panel's outreach to obtain the advice and recommendations of those participants; a discussion of the comments and recommendations of the participants; and a discussion of the Small Business Review Panel findings, focusing on the statutory elements required under section 603 of the RFA, 5 U.S.C. 609(b)(5).
In connection with issuing the Proposed Servicing Rules, the Bureau carefully considered the feedback from the small entities participating in the SBREFA process and the findings and recommendations in the Small Business Review Panel Report. The section-by-section analyses for the Final Servicing Rules discuss this feedback and the specific findings and recommendations of the Small Business Review Panel, as applicable. The SBREFA process provided the Small Business Review Panel and the Bureau with an opportunity to identify and explore opportunities to mitigate the burden of the rule on small entities while achieving the rule's purposes. It is important to note, however, that the Small Business Review Panel prepared the Small Business Review Panel Report at a preliminary stage of the proposal's development and that the report—in particular, the findings and recommendations—should be considered in that light. Any options identified in the Small Business Review Panel Report for reducing the proposed rule's regulatory impact on small entities were expressly subject to further consideration, analysis, and data collection by the Bureau to ensure that the options identified were practicable, enforceable, and consistent with RESPA, TILA, the Dodd-Frank Act, and their statutory purposes.
C. Summary of the Proposed Servicing Rule
The 2012 RESPA Servicing Proposal contained numerous significant revisions to Regulation X. As a preliminary matter, the Bureau proposed to reorganize Regulation X to include three distinct subparts. Subpart A (General) would have included general provisions of Regulation X, including provisions that applied to both subpart B and subpart C. Subpart B (Mortgage settlement and escrow accounts) would have included provisions relating to settlement services and escrow accounts, including disclosures provided to borrowers relating to settlement services. Subpart C (Mortgage servicing) would have included provisions relating to obligations of mortgage servicers. The Bureau also proposed to set forth a commentary that included official Bureau interpretations of Regulation X.
With respect to mortgage servicing-related provisions, the proposed rule would have amended existing provisions currently published in 12 CFR 1024.21 that relate to disclosures of mortgage servicing transfers and servicer obligations to borrowers. The Bureau proposed to include these provisions within subpart C as §§ 1024.33-1024.34. The Bureau also proposed to move certain clarifications in these provisions that were previously published in 12 CFR 1024.21 to the commentary to conform the organization of these provisions with the proposed additions to Regulation X.
The proposed rule would have established procedures for investigating and resolving alleged errors and responding to requests for information. The proposed requirements were set forth in proposed §§ 1024.35-1024.36. As proposed, these sections would have required servicers to respond to notices of error and information requests from borrowers, including qualified written requests. The Bureau's goal was to conform and consolidate the pre-existing requirements under RESPA applicable to qualified written requests, with the new requirements imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act through the addition of sections 6(k)(1)(C) and 6(k)(1)(D) of RESPA to respond to errors and information requests. The Bureau proposed to create a unified requirement for servicers to respond to notices of error and information requests provided by borrowers, without regard to whether the notices or requests constituted qualified written requests.  To that end, the proposed rule would have implemented the Dodd-Frank Act amendments to RESPA section 6(e) by adjusting the timeframes applicable to respond to qualified written requests, as well as errors and information requests generally, to conform to the new requirements.
Proposed § 1024.37 would have implemented limitations on servicers obtaining force-placed insurance. The proposed rule would have required servicers to provide notices to borrowers at certain timeframes before a servicer could impose a charge on a borrower for force-placed insurance. Further, the proposed rule would have required that charges related to force-placed insurance, other than charges subject to State regulation as the business of insurance or authorized by Federal flood laws, be bona fide and reasonable. Finally, the proposed rule sought to reduce the instances in which force-placed insurance would be needed by amending current § 1024.17 to require that where a borrower has escrowed for hazard insurance, servicers must advance funds to, and disburse from, an escrow account to maintain the borrower's own hazard insurance policy even if the loan obligation is more than 30 days overdue. The proposed rule also would have implemented the Dodd-Frank Act amendment to RESPA section 6(g) in proposed § 1024.34(b) by imposing requirements on servicers to refund or transfer funds in an escrow account when a mortgage loan is paid in full.
The proposed rule would have imposed obligations on servicers in four additional areas not specifically required by the Dodd-Frank Act: (1) Servicer policies and procedures, (2) early intervention for delinquent borrowers, (3) continuity of contact, and (4) loss mitigation procedures. The policies and procedures provision would have required servicers to implement policies and procedures to manage documents and information to achieve defined objectives intended to ensure that borrowers are not harmed by servicers' information management operations. Further, the policies and procedures provision would also have imposed requirements on servicers regarding record retention and management of servicing file documents. The early intervention provision would have required servicers to contact borrowers at an early stage of delinquency and provide information to borrowers about available loss mitigation options and the foreclosure process. The continuity of contact provision would have required servicers to make available to borrowers direct phone access to personnel who could assist borrowers in pursuing loss mitigation options. The loss mitigation procedures would have required servicers that offer loss mitigation options to borrowers to evaluate complete and timely applications for loss mitigation options. Servicers would have been required to permit borrowers to appeal denials of timely loss mitigation applications for loan modification programs. A servicer that received a complete and timely application for a loss mitigation option would not have been able to proceed with a foreclosure sale unless (1) the servicer denied the borrower's application and the time for any appeal had expired; (2) the borrower had declined or failed to accept an offer of a loss mitigation option within 14 days of the offer; or (3) the borrower failed to comply with the terms of a loss mitigation agreement.
D. Overview of the Comments Received
The Bureau received approximately 300 comments on the Proposed Servicing Rules. The comments came from individual consumers, consumer advocates, community banks, large bank holding companies, secondary market participants, credit unions, non-bank servicers, State and national trade associations for financial institutions in the mortgage business, local and national community groups, Federal and State regulators, academics, and others. Commenters provided feedback on all aspects of the Proposed Servicing Rules. Most commenters tended to focus on specific aspects of the proposals. Accordingly, in general, the comments are discussed below in the section-by-section analysis.
The majority of comments were submitted by mortgage servicers, industry groups representing servicers and businesses involved in the servicing industry. Large banks, community banks and credit unions, non-bank servicers, and industry trade associations submitted nearly all of these comments. The Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy submitted a comment and the remaining comments were submitted by vendors and attorney's representing industry interests. The Bureau also received a significant number of comments from consumer advocacy groups. The record also includes a 50-page comment by the Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative synthesizing submissions of 144 registered participants to Cornell's Regulation Room project. Regulation Room is a pilot project designed 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. Finally, the Bureau also received comments from the Small Business Administration, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the GSEs, and from vendors and attorneys representing industry interests.
Industry commenters and their trade associations also provided comments regarding the rulemaking process, and those comments are addressed here.  In that regard, community banks and their trade associations stated that the Bureau should consider cumulative burden when writing regulations, setting comment deadlines, and effective dates. These commenters believed that the combination of the Bureau's rules as well as the impact of Basel III requirements with respect to accounting for mortgage servicing rights in Tier I capital may cause disruptions across all mortgage market segments. A community bank trade association indicated that community banks are likely to feel the impact of the rules more acutely, as they cannot take advantage of economies of scale in mitigating the compliance burden. A community bank trade association stated that the Bureau should consider the wide diversity among servicer business models and adapt regulations to preserve diversity within the servicing industry. The commenter emphasized that community banks have strong reputation and performance incentives to ensure that consumers are provided a high level of service.
A large bank and a number of trade association commenters stated that the Bureau should be cognizant of imposing requirements and standards potentially inconsistent with those required by settlement agreements, consent orders, and GSE or government insurance program requirements. One commenter stated that the Bureau should consider preempting State law mortgage servicing requirements to provide legal and regulatory certainty to industry participants that are evaluating the future desirability of maintaining servicing operations. A number of trade associations stated that the Bureau should not issue regulations that would impose requirements substantially similar to the National Mortgage Settlement on mortgage servicers that are not parties to the National Mortgage Settlement.
The Bureau has considered each of these comments relating to the cumulative impact of mortgage regulation, including the mortgage servicing rules; the potential for inconsistent results with current servicing obligations, including State law and the National Mortgage Settlement; and comments regarding the diversity of servicing business models and servicer sizes. The Bureau's consideration of those comments is reflected below in the section-by-section analysis with respect to various determinations made in finalizing the 2012 RESPA Servicing Proposal, including the determination to create clear requirements, the determination to maintain consistency with current servicing obligations, including those imposed by State law and the National Mortgage Settlement, and the consideration of exemptions for small servicers.
With respect to preemption of state law, the Final Servicing Rules generally do not have the effect of prohibiting state law from affording borrowers broader consumer protections relating to mortgage servicing than those conferred under the Final Servicing Rules. However, in certain circumstances, the effect of specific requirements of the Final Servicing Rules is to preempt certain limited aspects of state law. Specifically, as set forth below, § 1024.41(f) bars a servicer from making the first notice or filing required for a foreclosure process unless a borrower is more than 120 days delinquent, notwithstanding that state law may permit any such filing. Further, § 1024.33(d) incorporates a pre-existing provision in Regulation X that implements RESPA with respect to preemption of certain state law disclosures relating to mortgage servicing transfers. In other circumstances, the Bureau explicitly took into account existing standards (both State and Federal) and either built in flexibility or designed its rules to coexist with those standards. For example, as discussed below, the Bureau took into account the loss mitigation timelines and “dual-tracking” provisions in the National Mortgage Settlement and the California Homeowner Bill of Rights and designed timelines that are consistent with those standards. Similarly, in designing its early intervention provision the Bureau included a statement that nothing in that provision shall require a servicer to make contact with a borrower in a manner that would be prohibited under applicable law.
A number of commenters provided comments regarding language access and community blight. Two national consumer groups urged the Bureau to take action to remove barriers borrowers with limited English-proficiency face with respect to understanding the terms of their mortgages because such barriers might make these borrowers more vulnerable to bad servicing practices. One national consumer group urged the Bureau to mandate translation of all notices, documents, and bills going to borrowers. Another national consumer group urged the Bureau to consider requiring servicers to provide disclosures and services in a borrower's preferred language, noting that it represents a population that speaks more than 100 different dialects. Finally, one commenter suggests that the Bureau should not only mandate disclosures in other languages but also should require servicers to provide language-capable staff to assist borrowers with limited English skills. With respect to neighborhood blight, a coalition of consumer advocacy groups and a consumer advocate that participated in outreach with the Bureau commented that the Bureau should consider implementing regulations to manage neighborhood blight by requiring servicers to maintain real estate owned (REO) property to decent, safe, and sanitary standards capable of purchase by borrowers with FHA financing.
Although some of these specific requests exceed the scope of the rulemaking, the Bureau takes seriously the important considerations of avoiding neighborhood blight and language access. The Bureau recognizes the challenges borrowers with limited English proficiency face in understanding the terms of their mortgage. The Bureau believes that servicers should communicate with borrowers clearly, including in the borrower's native language, where possible, and especially when lenders advertise in the borrower's native language. The Bureau conducted Spanish testing to support proposed rules and forms combining the TILA mortgage loan disclosure with the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and statement required under RESPA. See 77 FR 54843. That testing underscores both the value of disclosures in other languages but also the challenges in translating forms using English terms of art into other languages to assure that the foreign-language version of the form effectively communicates the required information to its readers.
The Bureau has not had the opportunity to test the disclosures that the Bureau is adopting, or the pre-existing RESPA disclosures, in other languages. Accordingly, the Bureau is not imposing mandatory foreign language translation requirements or other language access requirements at this time with respect to the mortgage servicing disclosures and other requirements the Bureau is adopting under new subpart C. Although the Bureau declines at this time to implement requirements regarding language access, the Bureau will continue to consider language access generally in connection with developing disclosures and will consider further requirements on servicer communication with borrowers if appropriate. With respect to REO properties, the Bureau continues to consider whether regulations are appropriate to address the maintenance of properties owned by lenders and any potential resulting harm from community blight.
E. Other Dodd-Frank Act Mortgage-Related Rulemakings
In addition to the Final Servicing Rules, the Bureau is adopting several other final rules and issuing one proposal, all relating to mortgage credit, to implement requirements of title XIV of the Dodd-Frank Act. The Bureau is also issuing a final rule and planning to issue a proposal jointly with other Federal agencies to implement requirements for mortgage appraisals in title XIV. Each of the final rules follows a proposal issued in 2011 by the Board or in 2012 by the Bureau alone or jointly with other Federal agencies. Collectively, these proposed and final rules are referred to as the Title XIV Rulemakings.
- Ability to Repay: The Bureau recently issued a rule, following a May 2011 proposal issued by the Board (the Board's 2011 ATR Proposal),  to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act (1) requiring creditors to determine that a consumer has a reasonable ability to repay covered mortgage loans and establishing standards for compliance, such as by making a “qualified mortgage,” and (2) establishing certain limitations on prepayment penalties, pursuant to TILA section 129C as established by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1411, 1412, and 1414. 15 U.S.C. 1639c. The Bureau's final rule is referred to as the 2013 ATR Final Rule. Simultaneously with the 2013 ATR Final Rule, the Bureau issued a proposal to amend the final rule implementing the ability-to-repay requirements, including by the addition of exemptions for certain nonprofit creditors and certain homeownership stabilization programs and a definition of a “qualified mortgage” for certain loans made and held in portfolio by small creditors (the 2013 ATR Concurrent Proposal). The Bureau expects to act on the 2013 ATR Concurrent Proposal on an expedited basis, so that any exceptions or adjustments to the 2013 ATR Final Rule can take effect simultaneously with that rule.
- Escrows: The Bureau recently issued a rule, following a March 2011 proposal issued by the Board (the Board's 2011 Escrows Proposal),  to implement certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act expanding on existing rules that require escrow accounts to be established for higher-priced mortgage loans and creating an exemption for certain loans held by creditors operating predominantly in rural or underserved areas, pursuant to TILA section 129D as established by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1461. 15 U.S.C. 1639d. The Bureau's final rule is referred to as the 2013 Escrows Final Rule.
- HOEPA: Following its July 2012 proposal (the 2012 HOEPA Proposal),  the Bureau recently issued a final rule to implement Dodd-Frank Act requirements expanding protections for “high-cost mortgages” under the Homeownership and Equity Protection Act (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. The Bureau also is finalizing rules to implement certain title XIV requirements concerning homeownership counseling, including a requirement that lenders provide lists of homeownership counselors to applicants for federally related mortgage loans, pursuant to RESPA section 5(c), as amended by Dodd-Frank Act section 1450. 12 U.S.C. 2604(c). The Bureau's final rule is referred to as the 2013 HOEPA Final Rule.
- Loan Originator Compensation: Following its August 2012 proposal (the 2012 Loan Originator Proposal),  the Bureau is issuing a final rule to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring certain creditors and loan originators to meet certain duties of care, including qualification requirements; requiring the establishment of certain compliance procedures by depository institutions; prohibiting 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; and establishing restrictions on mandatory arbitration and financing of single premium credit insurance, pursuant to TILA sections 129B and 129C as established by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1402, 1403, and 1414(a). 15 U.S.C. 1639b, 1639c. The Bureau's final rule is referred to as the 2013 Loan Originator Final Rule.
- Appraisals: The Bureau, jointly with other Federal agencies,  is issuing a final rule implementing Dodd-Frank Act requirements concerning appraisals for higher-risk mortgages, pursuant to TILA section 129H as established by Dodd-Frank Act section 1471. 15 U.S.C. 1639h. This rule follows the agencies' August 2012 joint proposal (the 2012 Interagency Appraisals Proposal).  The agencies' joint final rule is referred to as the 2013 Interagency Appraisals Final Rule. As discussed in that final rule, the agencies plan to issue a supplemental proposal addressing potential additional exemptions to the appraisal requirements. In addition, following its August 2012 proposal (the 2012 ECOA Appraisals Proposal),  the Bureau is issuing a final rule to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring 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, pursuant to section 701(e) of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) as amended by Dodd-Frank Act section 1474. 15 U.S.C. 1691(e). The Bureau's final rule is referred to as the 2013 ECOA Appraisals Final Rule.
The Bureau is not at this time finalizing proposals concerning various disclosure requirements that were added by title XIV of the Dodd-Frank Act, integration of mortgage disclosures under TILA and RESPA, or a simpler, more inclusive definition of the finance charge for purposes of disclosures for closed-end mortgage transactions under Regulation Z. The Bureau expects to finalize these proposals and to consider whether to adjust regulatory thresholds under the Title XIV Rulemakings in connection with any change in the calculation of the finance charge later in 2013, after it has completed quantitative testing, and any additional qualitative testing deemed appropriate, of the forms that it proposed in July 2012 to combine TILA mortgage disclosures with the good faith estimate (RESPA GFE) and settlement statement (RESPA settlement statement) required under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, pursuant to Dodd-Frank Act section 1032(f) and sections 4(a) of RESPA and 105(b) of TILA, as amended by Dodd-Frank Act sections 1098 and 1100A, respectively (the 2012 TILA-RESPA Proposal).  Accordingly, the Bureau already has issued a final rule delaying implementation of various affected title XIV disclosure provisions. 
Coordinated Implementation of Title XIV Rulemakings
As noted in all of its foregoing proposals, the Bureau regards each of the Title XIV Rulemakings as affecting aspects of the mortgage industry and its regulations. Accordingly, as noted in its proposals, the Bureau is coordinating carefully the Title XIV Rulemakings, particularly with respect to their effective dates. The Dodd-Frank Act requirements to be implemented by the Title XIV Rulemakings 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. See Dodd-Frank Act section 1400(c), 15 U.S.C. 1601 note. In addition, some of the Title XIV Rulemakings are required by the Dodd-Frank Act to take effect no later than one year after they are issued. Id.
The comments on the appropriate effective date for this final rule are discussed in detail below in part VI of this notice. In general, however, consumer advocates requested that the Bureau put the protections in the Title XIV Rulemakings into effect as soon as practicable. In contrast, the Bureau received some industry comments indicating that implementing so many new requirements at the same time would create a significant cumulative burden for creditors. In addition, many commenters also acknowledged the advantages of implementing multiple revisions to the regulations in a coordinated fashion.  Thus, a tension exists between coordinating the adoption of the Title XIV Rulemakings and facilitating industry's implementation of such a large set of new requirements. Some have suggested that the Bureau resolve this tension by adopting a sequenced implementation, while others have requested that the Bureau simply provide a longer implementation period for all of the final rules.
The Bureau recognizes that many of the new provisions will require creditors to make changes to automated systems and, further, that most administrators of large systems are reluctant to make too many changes to their systems at once. At the same time, however, the Bureau notes that the Dodd-Frank Act established virtually all of these changes to institutions' compliance responsibilities, and contemplated that they be implemented in a relatively short period of time. And, as already noted, the extent of interaction among many of the Title XIV Rulemakings necessitates that many of their provisions take effect together. Finally, notwithstanding commenters' expressed concerns for cumulative burden, the Bureau expects that creditors actually may realize some efficiencies from adapting their systems for compliance with multiple new, closely related requirements at once, especially if given sufficient overall time to do so.
Accordingly, the Bureau is requiring that, as a general matter, creditors and other affected persons begin complying with the final rules on January 10, 2014. As noted above, section 1400(c) of the Dodd-Frank Act requires that some provisions of the Title XIV Rulemakings take effect no later than one year after the Bureau issues them. Accordingly, the Bureau is establishing January 10, 2014, one year after issuance of the Bureau's 2013 ATR, Escrows, and HOEPA Final Rules (i.e., the earliest of the title XIV Rulemakings), as the baseline effective date for most of the Title XIV Rulemakings. The Bureau believes that, on balance, this approach will facilitate the implementation of the rules' overlapping provisions, while also affording creditors sufficient time to implement the more complex or resource-intensive new requirements.
The Bureau has identified certain rulemakings or selected aspects thereof, however, that do not present significant implementation burdens for industry. Accordingly, the Bureau is setting earlier effective dates for those final rules or certain aspects thereof, as applicable. Those effective dates are set forth and explained in the Federal Register notices for those final rules.
IV. Legal Authority Back to Top
The final rule was issued on January 17, 2013, in accordance with 12 CFR 1074.1. The Bureau is issuing this final rule pursuant to its authority under RESPA and the Dodd-Frank Act. Section 1061 of the Dodd-Frank Act transferred to the Bureau the “consumer financial protection functions” previously vested in certain other Federal agencies, including HUD. The term “consumer financial protection function” is defined to include “all authority to prescribe rules or issue orders or guidelines pursuant to any Federal consumer financial law, including performing appropriate functions to promulgate and review such rules, orders, and guidelines.”  RESPA and certain provisions of Title XIV of the Dodd-Frank Act are Federal consumer financial laws.  Accordingly, the Bureau has authority to issue regulations pursuant to RESPA and Title XIV of the Dodd-Frank Act, including implementing the additions and amendments to RESPA's mortgage servicing requirements made by Title XIV of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act creates statutory mandates by adding new section 6(k) through (m) to RESPA. Section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act also amends certain consumer protection provisions set forth in existing section 6(e) through (g) of RESPA.
Regarding the statutory mandates, section 6(k) of RESPA contains prohibitions on servicers for servicing of federally related mortgage loans. Pursuant to section 6(k) of RESPA, servicers are prohibited from: (i) Obtaining force-placed insurance unless there is a reasonable basis to believe the borrower has failed to comply with the loan contract's requirements to maintain property insurance; (ii) charging fees for responding to valid qualified written requests; (iii) failing to take timely action to respond to a borrower's requests to correct certain types of errors; (iv) failing to respond within ten business days to a request from a borrower to provide certain information about the owner or assignee of a mortgage loan; or (v) failing to comply with any other obligation found by the Bureau to be appropriate to carry out the consumer protection purposes of RESPA. See RESPA section 6(k).
Section 6(l) of RESPA sets forth specific requirements for determining if a servicer has a reasonable basis to obtain force-placed insurance coverage. Section 6(l) of RESPA requires servicers to provide written notices to a borrower before imposing on the borrower a charge for a force-placed insurance policy. Section 6(l) of RESPA also requires a servicer to accept any reasonable form of written confirmation from a borrower of existing insurance coverage. Section 6(l) of RESPA further requires a servicer, within 15 days of the receipt of such confirmation, to terminate force-placed insurance and refund any premiums and fees paid during the period of overlapping coverage. Section 6(m) of RESPA requires that charges related to force-placed insurance, other than charges subject to State regulation as the business of insurance, be bona fide and reasonable.
The Dodd-Frank Act also amends existing section 6(e) through (g) of RESPA. Section 6(e) is amended by decreasing the response times currently applicable to a servicer's obligation to respond to a qualified written request. Section 6(f) is amended to increase the penalty amounts servicers may incur for violations of section 6 of RESPA. Further, section 6(g) is amended to protect borrowers by obligating servicers to refund escrow balances to borrowers when a mortgage loan is paid in full or to transfer the escrow balance in certain refinancing related situations.
The Bureau observes that in addition to the specific statutory mandates and amendments the Dodd-Frank Act established in RESPA, by adding section 6(k)(1)(E) to RESPA, the Dodd-Frank Act authorizes the Bureau, through section 6(k), to prescribe regulations that are appropriate to carry out the consumer protection purposes of the title. RESPA is a remedial consumer protection statute and imposes obligations upon servicers of federally related mortgage loans. RESPA has established a consumer protection paradigm of requiring disclosures to consumers, and establishing servicer requirements and prohibitions, for the purpose of protecting borrowers from certain potential harms. The disclosures include, for example, disclosures regarding escrow account balances and disbursements, transfers of mortgage servicing among mortgage servicers, and force-placed insurance notices. The requirements and prohibitions include requirements for servicers to respond to qualified written requests from borrowers and with respect to escrow account payments. Servicers are subject to civil liability for failure to comply with such requirements and prohibitions.
Considered as a whole, RESPA, as amended by the Dodd-Frank Act, reflects at least two significant consumer protection purposes: (1) To establish requirements that ensure that servicers have a reasonable basis for undertaking actions that may harm borrowers and (2) to establish servicers' duties to borrowers with respect to the servicing of federally related mortgage loans. Specifically, with respect to mortgage servicing, the consumer protection purposes of RESPA include responding to borrower requests and complaints in a timely manner, maintaining and providing accurate information, helping borrowers avoid unwarranted or unnecessary costs and fees, and facilitating review for foreclosure avoidance options. Each of the provisions adopted in this final rule is intended to achieve some or all of these purposes.
The final rule also relies on the rulemaking and exception authorities specifically granted to the Bureau by RESPA and Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act, including the authorities discussed below:
Section 19(a) of RESPA authorizes the Bureau to prescribe such rules and regulations, to make such interpretations, and to grant such reasonable exemptions for classes of transactions, as may be necessary to achieve the purposes of RESPA, which includes the consumer protection purposes laid out above. 12 U.S.C. 2617(a). In addition, section 6(j)(3) of RESPA authorizes the Bureau to establish any requirements necessary to carry out section 6 of RESPA. 12 U.S.C. 2605(j)(3)
Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act
Dodd-Frank Act section 1022(b). Section 1022(b)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act authorizes the Bureau to prescribe rules “as may be necessary or appropriate to enable the Bureau to administer and carry out the purposes and objectives of the Federal consumer financial laws, and to prevent evasions thereof[.]” 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(1). RESPA and Title X are Federal consumer financial laws. Accordingly, in adopting this final rule, the Bureau is exercising its authority under Dodd-Frank Act section 1022(b) to prescribe rules to carry out the purposes and objectives of RESPA and Title X and prevent evasion of those laws.
Dodd-Frank Act section 1032. Section 1032(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that the Bureau “may prescribe rules to ensure that the features of any consumer financial product or service, both initially and over the term of the product or service, are fully, accurately, and effectively disclosed to consumers in a manner that permits consumers to understand the costs, benefits, and risks associated with the product or service, in light of the facts and circumstances.” 12 U.S.C. 5532(a). The authority granted to the Bureau in Dodd-Frank Act section 1032(a) is broad, and empowers the Bureau to prescribe rules regarding the disclosure of the “features” of consumer financial products and services generally. Accordingly, the Bureau may prescribe rules containing disclosure requirements even if other Federal consumer financial laws do not specifically require disclosure of such features.
Dodd-Frank Act section 1032(c) provides that, in prescribing rules pursuant to Dodd-Frank Act section 1032, the Bureau “shall consider available evidence about consumer awareness, understanding of, and responses to disclosures or communications about the risks, costs, and benefits of consumer financial products or services.” 12 U.S.C. 5532(c). Accordingly, in developing the final rule under Dodd-Frank Act section 1032(a), the Bureau has considered available studies, reports, and other evidence about consumer awareness, understanding of, and responses to disclosures or communications about the risks, costs, and benefits of consumer financial products or services. In addition, Dodd-Frank Act section 1032(b)(1) provides that “any final rule prescribed by the Bureau under this [section 1032] requiring disclosure may include a model form that may be used at the option of the covered person for provision of the required disclosures.” 12 U.S.C. 5532(b)(1). As required under Dodd-Frank Act section 1032(b)(3), the Bureau has validated model forms issued under Dodd-Frank Act section 1032(b)(1) through consumer testing.
The Bureau uses the specific statutory authorities set forth above, as well as the broader authorities set forth in sections 6(j)(3), 6(k), and 19(a) of RESPA, and in sections 1022 and 1032 of the Dodd-Frank Act discussed above in adopting this final rule.
The Bureau's final rule also includes official Bureau interpretations in a supplement to Regulation X. RESPA section 19(a) authorizes the Bureau to make such reasonable interpretations of RESPA as may be necessary to achieve the consumer protection purposes of RESPA. Good faith compliance with the interpretations would afford servicers protection from liability under section 19(b) of RESPA. The Bureau's adoption of these official Bureau interpretations in the supplement substitutes for the prior practice of HUD of publishing Statements of Policy with respect to interpretations of RESPA. 
V. Section-by-Section Analysis Back to Top
Existing Regulation X does not contain distinctive subparts. The Bureau proposed to create three distinct subparts within Regulation X. The Bureau did not receive any comments on the proposed reorganization of Regulation X. Therefore, the final rule adopts the reorganization as proposed.
Subpart A, titled “General,” contains general provisions as well as provisions that would have been applicable to the other two subparts of Regulation X. The Bureau proposed to place current §§ 1024.1 through 1024.5 in subpart A and, as described below, proposed to make a number of largely technical corrections to those sections.
Current § 1024.2 sets forth defined terms that are applicable to transactions covered by Regulation X, including the defined term “Federally related mortgage loan” that is referenced in the proposed defined term “Mortgage loan” in proposed subpart C. The Bureau proposed to retain most of current § 1024.2 without change, except that the Bureau proposed deletions from the defined terms “Federally related mortgage loan” and “Mortgage broker” and additions to the defined terms “Public Guidance Documents” and “Servicer.”
Specifically, the Bureau proposed to modify the defined term “Federally related mortgage loan” to eliminate the use of the short-hand reference to “mortgage loan” as a substitute for “Federally related mortgage loan” in light of the fact that proposed § 1024.31 would have provided that the term “mortgage loan” for purposes of subpart C's mortgage servicing requirements is to be a defined term distinct from the defined term “Federally related mortgage loan.” The Bureau also proposed conforming edits that would have replaced references to “mortgage loan” with “federally related mortgage loan” in the defined terms “Origination service,” “Servicer,” and “Servicing” set forth in current § 1024.2 and in current §§ 1024.7(f)(3), 1024.17(c)(8), 1024.17(f)(2)(ii), 1024.17(f)(4)(iii), 1024.17(i)(2), and 1024.17(i)(4)(iii). The Bureau did not receive comments on the proposed revision to the defined term “Federally related mortgage loan” or the conforming edits described above. The final rule adopts the proposed revision and conforming edits as proposed.
The 2012 RESPA Servicing Proposal also would have removed a reference to loan correspondents that are approved under 24 CFR 202.8 from the defined term “Mortgage broker” because the reference was made obsolete when HUD amended 24 CFR 202.8 on April 20, 2010, to eliminate the FHA approval process for loan correspondents after determining that loan correspondents would no longer be approved participants in FHA programs.  The Bureau did not receive comments on the proposal to remove the reference to loan correspondents from the current defined term “Mortgage broker,” and the final rule adopts the proposed removal from the defined term “Mortgage broker” as proposed.
The proposal also would have modified the defined term “Public Guidance Documents” to clarify that such documents are available from the Bureau upon request and to provide an address for such requests. The Bureau did not receive comments on these proposed clarifications, and the final rule adopts the clarifications to the defined term “Public Guidance Documents” as proposed.
The proposal also would have added language to the defined term “Servicer” to clarify the status of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) as conservator or liquidating agent of a servicer or in its role of providing special assistance to an insured credit union. The current definition of “Servicer” provides that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is not a servicer (1) with respect to assets acquired, assigned, sold, or transferred pursuant to section 13(c) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act or as receiver or conservator of an insured depository institution; or (2) in any case in which the assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of the mortgage loan is preceded by commencement of proceedings by the FDIC for conservatorship or receivership of a servicer (or an entity by which the servicer is owned or controlled). The proposed addition to the defined term “Servicer” would have clarified similarly that the NCUA is not a servicer (1) with respect to assets acquired, assigned, sold, or transferred, pursuant to section 208 of the Federal Credit Union Act or as conservator or liquidating agent of an insured credit union; or (2) in any case in which the assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of the mortgage loan was preceded by commencement of proceedings by the NCUA for appointment of a conservator or liquidating agent of a servicer (or an entity by which the servicer is owned or controlled). The Bureau does not believe there is a basis to impose on the NCUA, when it is providing assistance to an insured credit union or in its role as conservator or liquidating agent of an insured credit union, the obligations of a servicer. The Bureau did not receive any comments concerning the proposed language. Accordingly, the Bureau adopts the proposed addition to the defined term “Servicer” as proposed.
The Bureau proposed to delete the text of current § 1024.3 concerning the process for the public to submit questions or suggestions regarding RESPA or to receive copies of Public Guidance Documents and to replaced it with the substance of the regulation concerning electronic disclosures set forth in current § 1024.23. The Bureau did not believe a provision of Regulation X was needed to address the process for submitting questions and requesting documents. The public may contact the Bureau to request documents, suggest changes to Regulation X, or submit questions, including questions concerning the interpretation of RESPA by mail to the Associate Director, Research, Markets, and Regulations, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, 1700 G St. NW., Washington, DC 20552, or by email to CFPB_RESPAInquiries@cfpb.gov. Further, the final rule includes contact information to request copies of Public Guidance Documents in the defined term “Public Guidance Documents” in § 1024.2, as discussed above.
Current § 1024.23 states that provisions of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act) permitting electronic disclosures to consumers if certain conditions are met apply to Regulation X. Because the Bureau believes that such E-Sign Act provisions are applicable to all provisions in Regulation X, it decided that the best place for the language was in § 1024.3. In the process of moving the language in current § 1024.23 to § 1024.3, the Bureau also made technical edits to conform the language to the language of other similar Bureau regulations. The Bureau did not receive comments on these revisions to current §§ 1024.3 and 1024.23. The Final rule adopts § 1024.3 as proposed and removes § 1024.23 as proposed.
Current § 1024.4 sets forth provisions relating to reliance upon rules, regulations, or interpretations by the Bureau. The Bureau proposed to remove current § 1024.4(b) and redesignate current § 1024.4(c) as proposed § 1024.4(b). Current § 1024.4(b) provides that the Bureau may, in its discretion, provide unofficial staff interpretations but that such interpretations do not provide protection under section 19(b) of RESPA and that staff will not ordinarily provide such interpretations on matters adequately covered by Regulation X, official interpretations, or commentaries. The Bureau's policy is to assist the public in understanding the Bureau's regulations, including, but not limited to, Regulation X. The Bureau believes that this provision, which states Bureau policy, is more appropriate for the commentary and, accordingly, proposed to include the substance of this provision in the introduction to the commentary. The Bureau did not receive comments on the proposed removal of current § 1024.4(b) and re-designation of current § 1024.4(c) as proposed § 1024.4(b). The final rule adopts these revisions as proposed.
Current § 1024.5 sets forth exemptions with respect to the applicability of Regulation X. The Bureau proposed a technical correction to current § 1024.5(b)(7) to reflect that mortgage servicing-related provisions of Regulation X will be included in new subpart C and will no longer be placed in current § 1024.21. The Bureau did not receive comments on this technical correction, and the final rule adopts the technical correction to § 1024.5 as proposed, with an additional technical change to clarify the applicability of subpart C to bona fide transfers in the secondary market.
For reasons discussed below, current § 1024.21 is deleted. In connection with the deletion of current § 1024.21 as discussed below, the Bureau is also making a technical correction to a cross-reference in current § 1024.13(d) to language in current § 1024.21(h) that is being moved to § 1024.33(d).
Subpart B—Mortgage Settlements and Escrow Accounts
In connection with the Bureau's proposal to create three distinct subparts in Regulation X, the Bureau is organizing §§ 1024.6 through 1024.20 under new subpart B. These provisions generally relate to settlement services and escrow accounts. As described above, the Bureau is adopting the conforming edits the Bureau proposed relating to §§ 1024.7(f)(3), 1024.17(c)(8), 1024.17(f)(2)(ii), 1024.17(f)(4)(iii), 1024.17(i)(2), and 1024.17(i)(4)(iii).
Section 1024.17Escrow Accounts
17(k) Timely Payments
Section 6(g) of RESPA establishes that if the terms of any federally related mortgage loan require a borrower to make payments to a servicer of the loan for deposit into an escrow account for the purpose of assuring payment of taxes, insurance premiums, and other charges with respect to the property, the servicer shall make such payments from the borrower's escrow account in a timely manner as such payments become due. Existing § 1024.21(g) provides that the requirements set forth in § 1024.17(k) govern the payment of such charges. Existing § 1024.17(k)(1) provides that if the terms of a federally related mortgage loan require a borrower to make payments to an escrow account, a servicer must pay the disbursements in a timely manner (specifically, on or before the deadline to avoid a penalty) unless a borrower's payment is more than 30 days overdue. Existing § 1024.17(k)(2) requires servicers to advance funds if necessary to make the disbursements in a timely manner unless the borrower's mortgage payment is more than 30 days past due. Upon advancing funds to pay a disbursement, a servicer may seek repayment from a borrower for the deficiency pursuant to § 1024.17(f).
The Bureau proposed a new § 1024.17(k)(5) to expand the scope of these obligations with regard to continuing a borrower's hazard insurance policy. Specifically, proposed § 1024.17(k)(5) would have required that, notwithstanding § 1024.17(k)(1) and (2), a servicer must make payments from a borrower's escrow account in a timely manner to pay the premium charge on a borrower's hazard insurance, as defined in § 1024.31, unless the servicer has a reasonable basis to believe that a borrower's hazard insurance has been canceled or not renewed for reasons other than nonpayment of premium charges. Thus, proposed § 1024.17(k)(5) would have required a servicer to both advance funds to an escrow account and to disburse such funds to pay a borrower's hazard insurance notwithstanding that a borrower is more than 30 days delinquent.
The proposed requirement would not have applied where a servicer had “a reasonable basis to believe that such insurance has been canceled or not renewed for reasons other than nonpayment of premium charges” because the Bureau recognized that there were situations where timely payment by a servicer would not be sufficient to continue a policy that had already been canceled or was not renewed for other reasons, such as, for example, risks presented by the condition of the property.
The Bureau also proposed commentary to clarify the requirements in § 1024.17(k)(5). Specifically, the Bureau proposed to clarify in comment 17(k)(5)-1 that the receipt by a servicer of a notice of cancellation or non-renewal from the borrower's insurance company before the insurance premium is due provides a reasonable basis to believe that the borrower's hazard insurance has been canceled or not renewed for reasons other than nonpayment of premium charges. Comment 17(k)(5)-2 would have provided three examples of situations in which a borrower's hazard insurance was canceled or not renewed for reasons other than the nonpayment of premium charges, including because the borrower cancelled the insurance policy, because the insurance company no longer writes the type of policy that the borrower carried or writes policies in the area where the borrower's property is located, or because the insurance company is no longer willing to maintain the borrower's individual policy to cover the borrower's property because of a change in risk affecting the borrower's property. Finally, proposed comment 17(k)(5)-3 would have clarified that a servicer that advances the premium payment as required by § 1024.17(k)(5) may advance the payment on a month-to-month basis, if permitted by State or other applicable law and accepted by the borrower's hazard insurance company.
The Bureau proposed § 1024.17(k)(5) to protect consumers from the unwarranted force-placement of hazard insurance. Force-placed insurance generally provides substantially less coverage for a borrower's property at a substantially higher premium cost than a borrower-obtained hazard insurance policy, as discussed below in connection with § 1024.37. Section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act demonstrates that Congress was concerned about the unwarranted or unnecessary force-placement of hazard insurance for mortgage borrowers. Section 6(k) of RESPA, as amended by section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act, evinces Congress's intent to establish reasonable protections for borrowers to avoid unwarranted force-placed insurance coverage. Section 1024.17(k)(5), though articulated differently than the protections directly set forth in section 1463, draws directly from Congress's intent as set forth in section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act to protect borrowers from the force-placement of hazard insurance in situations where such force-placement is unwarranted and can be avoided. When a servicer is receiving bills for the borrower's hazard insurance in connection with administration of an escrow account, a servicer who elects not to advance to a delinquent borrower's escrow account to maintain the borrower's hazard insurance, allowing that insurance to lapse, and then advances a far greater amount to a borrower's escrow account to obtain a force-placed insurance policy unreasonably harms a borrower. Section 1024.17(k)(5) implements the purposes of section 1463 of the Dodd-Frank Act to protect borrowers from the unwarranted force-placement of insurance when a servicer does not have a reasonable basis to impose the charge on a borrower.
Further, considered as a whole, one of the consumer protection purposes of RESPA, as amended by the Dodd-Frank Act, is a requirement that servicers must have a reasonable basis for undertaking actions that may harm borrowers, including delinquent borrowers. Section 1024.17(k)(5) furthers this purpose by establishing that servicers may not unnecessarily obtain force-placed insurance in situations where such placement is not warranted, that is, when a servicer is able to maintain a borrower's current hazard insurance in force by advancing and disbursing funds to pay the premiums.
The Bureau further reasoned that proposed § 1024.17(k)(5) would not increase burdens on servicers generally, because the Bureau understood that many servicers already advance hazard insurance premiums for borrowers with escrow accounts even if the borrowers' mortgage payments are more than 30 days past due. The Bureau also understands that the proposed requirement would benefit owners or assignees of mortgage loans by preventing the placement of costly and unnecessary force-placed insurance policies, the higher costs for which may be recovered from an owner or assignee in the event the property is liquidated.
The Bureau sought comment on all aspects of the proposed escrow advance provision including on whether there should be additional limitations on a servicer's duty to advance funds. For instance, the Bureau sought comments on an alternative approach under which a servicer could not charge a borrower who has an escrow account established to pay hazard insurance for force-placed insurance unless those charges would be less expensive than the charges for reimbursing the servicer for advancing funds to continue the borrower's hazard insurance policy. The Bureau further requested comment regarding whether to require further that any such force-placed insurance policy protect the borrower's interest. In addition, the Bureau observed in the proposal that § 1024.17(k)(5) would only apply when a borrower has an escrow account established to pay hazard insurance, and also invited comments on whether a servicer should be required to pay the hazard insurance premiums on behalf of a borrower who has not established an escrow account to pay for such insurance. Finally, the Bureau further requested comment on whether a servicer should be required to ask such a borrower whether the borrower would consent to the servicer renewing the borrower's hazard insurance and, with the borrower's consent, be required to advance funds to pay such premiums.
Industry commenters and their trade associations varied significantly in their comments with respect to § 1024.17(k)(5). A number of commenters, including a force-placed insurance provider and two trade associations, stated that the proposed requirement was consistent with current industry practice and would not be onerous to implement. For example, one non-bank servicer indicated that it generally advanced funds to escrow and disbursed those funds to maintain hazard insurance so long as it viewed the advances as recoverable, notwithstanding the delinquency status of the borrower.
Numerous other servicers and their trade associations, however, objected to the requirement that a servicer timely disburse funds from escrow to pay hazard insurance for borrowers who are delinquent and further that servicers should advance funds to escrow accounts that would then be disbursed to pay hazard insurance. Some industry commenters indicated that force-placed insurance is the appropriate means for insuring a property for a borrower that has not paid for hazard insurance. For example, a national trade association representing property and casualty insurers stated that the inclusion of limitations on force-placed insurance in section 1463(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act recognized that an appropriate role exists for force-placed insurance. Some commenters indicated that the procedures for obtaining force-placed insurance, specific