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CFPB Examines Mortgage Servicers' Response To Pandemic

Steve Goode
May 16, 2022
mortgage debt

Report reveals that homeowners continue to face significant challenges connected to working with mortgage servicers.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Many borrowers exited COVID-19 hardship forbearance with no loss mitigation solution in place.
  • Some mortgage servicers significantly lag industry peers in call center response times.
  • Data on borrowers’ language preferences remained limited.
  • Some mortgage servicers relied on systems that could not provide information on key metrics.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report Monday examining mortgage servicers’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The data, collected across 16 large servicers from May through December 2021, reveals that homeowners continue to face significant risks and challenges connected to working with their mortgage servicers,  particularly borrowers struggling to make their mortgage payments after exiting COVID-19 hardship forbearances.

“While many mortgage servicers are successfully assisting borrowers to avoid foreclosure, today's report highlights that some servicers are lagging their peers and are less well-equipped to assist borrowers who have exited pandemic housing protections,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “We will be closely monitoring mortgage servicer performance to ensure that they are meeting their obligations under the law.”

He told a meeting of the Mortgage Bankers Association in midtown Manhattan Monday that his bureau wants to ensure barriers are being removed to servicing consumers in the mortgage process.

He says steps are necessary to protect consumers. "The homeowner is not the customer of the servicer. They can't fire the mortgage servicer."

The mortgage metrics report reveals the challenges borrowers faced as CARES Act protections began to expire, and homeowners transitioned to restarting their monthly payments. At the end of 2021, approximately 330,000 homeowners had delinquent loans that were no longer in forbearance, and they had no loss mitigation solution in place. 

One challenge for borrowers was their inability to reach, or get a timely response from, their mortgage servicer’s call center. Mortgage servicer call centers are vital links between the homeowner and servicer that answer homeowners’ questions and provide them with information to make important decisions about their loans, the CFPB said. The extent of these challenges varied significantly among servicers, according to the report. 

The CFPB prioritized oversight of mortgage servicers throughout the pandemic. In August 2021, the bureau published an initial review of mortgage servicer performance. Monday’s report similarly uses data collected from examinations of 16 servicers. Those servicers represent a broad cross-section of the mortgage servicing industry. They are different in terms of the types of loans they service (VA, FHA, GSE, PLS, or portfolio), the pre-COVID pandemic delinquency status of the loans they service, and even the geography of where their serviced loans are located. The differences help to shed light on performance across the mortgage servicing market, and they may also help explain some of the variation identified in the report.

Key data points that contributed to the report included: call center metrics; COVID-19 hardship forbearance exits; delinquency rates; and borrower profiles. Each provided insights into the performance of mortgage servicers in serving borrowers in need of mortgage repayment assistance.

Highlights of the report included:

  • Many borrowers exited COVID-19 hardship forbearance with no loss mitigation solution in place. Delinquency rates were higher for private loans – between 25% and 39% – than for federally backed loans – between 11% and 17%. While servicers have made progress working through delinquent loans, exiting a COVID-19 hardship forbearance with no loss mitigation solution in place puts a borrower at a heightened risk of foreclosure.
  • Some mortgage servicers significantly lag industry peers in call center response times. Call metrics showed average hold times of more than ten minutes and call abandonment rates exceeding 30% for some servicers. These metrics varied among servicers, with some servicers performing well and others poorly.
  • Data on borrowers’ language preferences remained limited. The CFPB consistently has recommended that servicers collect and maintain information on borrowers’ preferred language; several servicers marked that many of their borrowers’ preferred language was unknown. Among the servicers who provided language preference data, the percentage of borrowers in delinquency and who had a non-English language preference increased during the reviewed period. Conversely, the percentage of borrowers in delinquency and who identified English as their preferred language decreased. Recent action by the Federal Housing Finance Agency requiring mortgage originators to inquire about language preference at the time of origination could help close the gap in delinquency rates between English and non-English speakers.
  • Some mortgage servicers relied on systems that could not provide information on key metrics. Additionally, some servicers reported inconsistent data. The report notes that some servicers are not fully able to track and report high-quality data. The CFPB is concerned about whether these servicers are able to ensure that all borrowers, and particularly those borrowers most in need of assistance, receive adequate and timely assistance in compliance with federal consumer financial protection law.
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