A little too Late…crash happened! HUD reconsiders RESPA rule on incentives

Now if “steering” was involved…

WASHINGTON – June 4, 2010 – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is taking a closer look at the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act’s (RESPA) prohibition against the “required use” of affiliated settlement service providers. DinSFLA: They need to take a closer look if these were part of “Appraisal Fraud” & “Illegal Kickbacks”.

It violates RESPA if a consumer is required to use a particular mortgage lender, title company or other settlement service provider that’s affiliated with another business in their mortgage transaction. However, it’s less clear whether it’s a RESPA violation if it is offered as a discount or other incentive to steer them to a lender, title company, etc. DinSFLA: COERCION or not COERCE is the Question! I wonder what they would think of the Mills using their own title companies to close on their foreclosures? Any violations?

HUD is currently trying to determine if incentives violate the “required use” requirement. As part of the process, HUD published a notice about the issue and is seeking public comment.

HUD took the step because it has received a number of consumer complaints, many of which focused on a home builder that might reduce the cost of a home (by adding free construction upgrades or by discounting the home price) if the homebuyer uses the developer or builder’s affiliated mortgage lender. In some cases, the incentives may not represent true discounts if the homebuyers ultimately pay more in total loan costs.

According to HUD, consumers also say that the timing of the contract with the builder precludes them from shopping around, and the builder’s lender can then charge higher settlement costs or interest rates not competitive with non-affiliated lenders. HUD says that the steering of clients ” effectively violates” the “required use” ban in RESPA.

“It is our intent to keep an open mind on how to approach this vexing question over what is, and what is not, ‘required use,'” says David Stevens, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Housing/Federal Housing Commissioner. “Clearly, consumers are complaining that they are being presented offers they believe they can’t refuse, and are essentially being required to use certain affiliated service providers.”

HUD’s current definition of “required use” reads:

“Required use means a situation in which a person must use a particular provider of a settlement service in order to have access to some distinct service or property, and the person will pay for the settlement service of the particular provider or will pay a charge attributable, in whole or in part, to the settlement service. However, the offering of a package or (combination of settlement services) or the offering of discounts or rebates to consumers for the purchase of multiple settlement services does not constitute a required use. Any package or discount must be optional to the purchaser. The discount must be a true discount below the prices that are otherwise generally available, and must not be made up by higher costs elsewhere in the settlement process.”

HUD’s call for comments is published in the Federal Register. To view the document (PDF format), go to:http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-13350.pdf

Comments must refer to the docket number and title:

Docket No. FR–5352–A–01 RIN 2502–A178 Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA): Strengthening and Clarifying RESPA’s “Required Use” Prohibition Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

Comment due date: Sept. 1, 2010.

HUD strongly encourages people to submit comments electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal atwww.regulations.gov.

Comments can also be mailed to:

ANPR to the Regulations Division Office of General Counsel Department of Housing and Urban Development

451 7th Street, SW. Room 10276

Washington, DC 20410–0500

No FAX comments are accepted.

© 2010 Florida Realtors®

RELATED STORY:

ARE FORECLOSURE MILLS Coercing Buyers for BANK OWNED homes? ARE ALL THE MILLS?

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