Different and Enduring Reverse Mortgage Perspectives at National Policy Conference

In what was described by its moderator as “very lively, for the last session on a Friday,” a panel discussion at a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in San Diego last month once again demonstrated some different and enduring perspectives on reverse mortgages.

Panel participants included: Peter Bell, president of NRMLA; Rick Jurgens, advocate and investigative reporter with the National Consumer Law Center; and Duncan Goss, staff member with the State of Vermont General Assembly, who moderated.

“The sense I got was that [reverse mortgages] are a potentially useful financial instrument,” said Goss, “but there are things that need to be addressed when considering it.” He said the subject likely would come up again at the group’s spring forum in Washington, D.C., April 7-10, and at their annual legislative summit in Louisville, Ky., July 25-28, where some policy resolutions are voted upon by the full membership.

Vermont is one of the states that passed a new law in 2009 affecting reverse mortgages. On June 1, the governor signed the act, establishing consumer protection standards for reverse mortgage programs.

The NCLC’s Jurgens told RMD that during the December panel discussion, “there were some areas of shared concern. The primary difference is we think that ultimately counseling is not an adequate consumer protection.” Jurgens added that, “as this industry grows and more seniors’ equity comes into play, there must be some sort of suitability standard. Some obligation to operate in the best interest of potential borrowers is needed to check the potential for abuse. That is certainly not a generally applied standard [today],” he concluded.

NRMLA’s Bell said of the panel discussion: “All in all, it was a sparsely attended low-key event. Rick and I generally agreed on issues that policymakers and the industry need to remain vigilant about, although I did question some of the facts and ‘evidence’ presented in the NCLC report.“

Neil J. Morse has been a communications professional working in the mortgage finance industry for more than a decade. He can be reached at [email protected]

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