Civil rights group wants CFPB to require foreign language mortgage documents

HMDA fields should be offered in 8 different languages?

A coalition of civil rights groups is pressuring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to enhance protections for mortgage services to potential homeowners who grapple with the English language.

Attorneys at Ballard Spahr, writing in their latest Mortgage Banking Update, in response to the news, said that if the Americans for Financial Reform get their way, help will be needed from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, HUD, and the federal banking agencies in order to make these proposals work.

"As we have previously observed, the expectations of the CFPB and other regulators for serving limited English proficiency (LEP) customers present numerous challenges for financial institutions, including UDAAP and fair lending risks, and regulators have not yet provided financial institutions with guidance about how to serve LEP consumers without taking such risks," writes attorney John Culhane. "We were therefore glad to see that AFR’s recommendations include the CFPB’s provision of affirmative written guidance/regulations."

The AFR recommends the CFPB enhance mortgage protections to homebuyers with LEP by “requiring servicers to provide both free, contemporaneous oral interpretation services for homeowners who request it and key documents in the borrower’s preferred language.”

Further, the AFR wants the CFPB to “provide protections for LEP mortgage applicants, such as making communications to the applicant available in at least eight languages other than English (a prospective applicant could then request communications in one of the specified languages).”

The AFR is also requesting that the CFPB add HMDA data fields that include the preferred language spoken by the loan applicant.

The Americans for Financial Reform is a nonpartisan and nonprofit coalition of more than 200 civil rights, consumer, labor, business, investor, faith-based, and civic and community groups, formed in the wake of the 2008 crisis.

Here is the AFR brief in full for review.

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