In its war on ‘junk fees,’ CFPB targets mortgage servicing

CFPB Director Rohit Chopra detailed the agency’s efforts to crack down on prohibited fees, deceptive notices to homeowners and violations of loss-mitigation rules

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Wednesday released a new edition of its Supervisory Highlights publication, which includes the agency’s actions to combat what it calls “junk fees charged by mortgage servicers, as well as other illegal practices.”

Examinations conducted by the bureau found mortgage servicers levied charges it deems “illegal,” including prohibited property inspection fees, the issuance of “deceptive” notices to borrowers, and violations of loss-mitigation rules. Financial institutions refunded these fees to borrowers based on CFPB findings and “stopped their illegal practices,” the agency said.

“Homeowners cannot just simply switch providers if their mortgage servicer charges them illegal junk fees,“ CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in a statement accompanying the new publication. “Since mortgage borrowers are captive to a company they never chose to do business with, we are working hard to detect and deter violations of law.”

In addition to these findings, the bureau also claims that certain mortgage servicers failed to waive certain late fees and penalties that stem from challenges faced by borrowers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency also asserted that deadlines to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance were impacted.

“Mortgage servicers that accepted or required money from borrowers to pay taxes and insurance failed to make those payments in a timely manner, which caused some borrowers to incur penalties,” the bureau stated. “Servicers only took responsibility for those penalties for missed on-time payments if homeowners submitted complaints.”

Among the allegedly deceptive notices sent to borrowers include statements that certain borrowers in financial distress “had been approved for a repayment option,” when the reality was that “no final decisions had been made, and some of the homeowners were ultimately rejected.”

CFPB examiners also found servicers sent some homeowners “false notices saying that they had missed payments and should apply for repayment options,” and that servicers also “improperly denied requests for help and failed to evaluate struggling borrowers for repayment options as required under the CFPB’s mortgage servicing rules.”

The bureau added that mortgage servicers are taking corrective actions, including changes to certain policies and procedures. Servicers are also providing refunds for any issues related to fees, the agency said.

“The CFPB has been looking at ways to streamline mortgage servicing rules, while making sure mortgage servicers fulfill their obligations to treat homeowners fairly,” the bureau added.

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