Appropriately responding to complaints is one of the primary functions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and it's easy to see why.
According to remarks from Steve Antonakes, Deputy Director of the CFPB, in February the bureau received more than 31,700 calls and handled more than 21,000 complaints. And mortgages make up a large portion of those.
The CFPB began taking consumer complaints when it opened nearly three years ago in the summer of 2011.
"Mortgage complaint volume, however, remains high and averages around 4,300 complaints per month," Antonakes said speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Complaints are not only opportunities for us to assist specific people; they also make a difference by informing our work and helping us identify areas of concern, which then feed into our supervision and enforcement prioritization process."
The updated numbers provided by Antonakes show little improvement in the volume of mortgage-related complaints the CFPB has handled over the last few years.
According to Randy Wussler, vice president of product management for San Diego-based DataQuick, the CFPB received more than 176,000 consumer complaints between July 2011 and June 2013 with more than two-thirds of the complaints received centered on mortgage lending (48%) and credit reporting (21%).
Logically, at some point — due to CFPB-initiated regulations in the mortgage space — these complaints will begin to trend downward.
"Under our Ability to Repay (Qualified Mortgage) rule, lenders must now make a reasonable, good faith determination that the consumer can actually afford the mortgage before they make the loan," he said.
"Now, obviously, mortgage lenders do not have a crystal ball: they cannot predict if someone will lose a job or have an unexpected financial emergency," Antonakes added. "But they must look at a consumer’s income or assets, and at their debt, and must weigh them against the monthly payments over the long term. In other words, lenders must revert to responsible lending."
The CFPB takes the regulation of the mortgage industry another top priority.
CFPB Director Richard Corday, in an interview published in an issue of HousingWire Magazine, cautioned mortgage servicers saying, “There have been a lot of problems in that industry. I have seen them very close up when I was a public official in Ohio. It is important for them to take this very seriously and improve their performance and come into compliance with these rules.”
Antonakes, for his part, does not mince his words when speaking to mortgage professionals.
The bureau itself is not free of criticism. The head of the House Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, recently called on Cordray to open up its four advisory council meetings to the public and press, for example.