The Federal Reserve Board has issued an interim final rule under Regulation Z to implement the recent Truth in Lending Act (TILA) amendment that requires new owners and assignees of mortgage loans to notify consumers of the sale or transfer.
While mostly helpful in foreclosure defense, the rule leaves open the question of ownership of the loans. Because of the practice of “assignment” of the loans to a special purpose vehicle, the Fed stopped there in its inquiry. If it had taken one step further it would have seen that the indenture to the mortgage backed bond conveyed an ownership interest in the loans supposedly assigned. it also leaves open the problem of whether the loans were accepted into the pool or were time-barred or were defective for failure to meet the requirements of recordation or recordable form set forth in the enabling documents.
The TILA requirement has been in effect since the May 20, 2009, enactment of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009. Compliance with the specifics of the new rule is optional until January 19, 2010. As a result, new owners may (but need not) rely on the new rule immediately to ensure they are in compliance with TILA. Violations give rise to liability for statutory damages, including up to $4,000 per violation in individual actions or up to $500,000 in a class action.
The transfer notice requirement applies to all closed-end and open-end consumer-purpose mortgage loans secured by a consumer’s principal residence. It requires any person that acquires more than one mortgage loan in any 12-month period to provide a transfer notice without regard to whether the new owner would otherwise be a “creditor” subject to TILA. Mere servicers of mortgage loans and investors in mortgage-backed securities or other interests in pooled loans do not acquire legal title to loans and are not subject to the new rule. However, trusts or other entities acquiring legal title to the securitized loans are subject to the rule. The notice requirement is triggered by a transfer of the underlying loan, regardless of whether the assignment is recorded. Thus, assignees are not exempt from the duty to provide notice merely because the mortgage (as opposed to the note) is in the name of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), for example.
The new rule does not affect the separate notification requirement under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) for servicing transfers on mortgage loans. Accordingly, new owners who acquire both legal title to a mortgage loan and the servicing rights will need to satisfy both the TILA and RESPA notification requirements.
- The notice must be given on or before the 30th calendar date after the date the new owner acquires the loan, with the acquisition date deemed to be the date that the acquisition is recognized in the new owner’s books and records. In the case of short-term repurchase agreements, the acquirer is not required to give the notice if the transferor has not treated the transfer as a loan sale on its own books and records. However, if a repurchase does not occur, the acquirer must give the notice within 30 days after it recognizes the transfer as an acquisition on its books and records.
- The notice must be given even where the new and former owners are affiliates, but a combined notice may be sent where one company acquires a loan and subsequently transfers it to another company so long as the content and timing requirements are satisfied as to both entities.
- The notice must contain the information specified by the new rule, including contact information for any agents used by an owner to receive legal notices and resolve payment issues.
- The required information also includes a disclosure of the location where ownership of the debt is recorded. If a transfer has not been recorded in the public records at the time the notice is provided, a new owner may satisfy this requirement by stating that fact.
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