Through a stroke of lucky timing, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) had gained traction with a reorganized and strengthened consumer advocacy mission just before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020.
Homeowners, renters, borrowers, lenders and mortgage servicers had one less thing to worry about as they absorbed the implications of pandemic-sparked forbearance rules and other regulatory shelters: realigned NYDFS operations were already in synch with the servicers that operated in the state, said Winston Berkman-Breen, director of Consumer Advocacy for the New York State Department of Financial Services.
Now, as the temporary measures ease, the transition to repairing and rebuilding likely will be smooth, said Berkman-Breen, and the department is poised to amplify communication with consumers so they, too can regain steady footing.
“There’s already a blueprint there. NYDFS expectations are the same as they have always been,” he said. “The system that already exists is capable of navigating this difficult time. There have been new elements but they’re not a dramatic change to the existing structure.”
The department has been crystal-clear that its overriding priority is to “keep customers in their homes,” said Allison J. Schoenthal, a partner with the New York City firm law firm Goodwin Proctor LLP. In a move that proved prescient, the NYDFS’ 2019 update of its standards for mortgage servicers, focused on clear and responsive communications with borrowers, both positioned the companies to better weather the COVID chaos and oriented them to ongoing change, said Schoenthal.