Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

January 15, 2016

Rent-to-Own Risks

By David Reiss

"Numbers 341 to 385 Lordship Lane N17" by A R Driver

Kroll Bond Rating Agency has released a CMBS Commentary, Rent-to-Own Deals Present More Risk than SFR [Single-Family Rental]. The commentary addresses the first rent-to-own securitization, one that Kroll is not rating. With rent-to-own, ” the tenant has the right to purchase the property it is currently renting in the future at a specified exercise price.” (1) With single-family rental, the tenant is currently renting a property from a large institutional investor without a right to purchase.

Kroll has identified a variety of risks that are specific to R2O deals. While some are specific to potential investors, others will also impact the tenants in these properties:

A primary concern was that the legality of purchase options associated with rent-to-own properties are largely untested and there is a possibility that these purchase options could subsequently be found to violate consumer protection and/ or predatory lending laws. If this occurred, it could result in considerable litigation costs for the securitization trust, as well as a cessation of advancing by the servicer. For example, if it was determined that the purchase option violated consumer protection laws, tenants in the applicable jurisdiction could potentially cease making rental payments under their leases, potentially causing a shortfall in the funds available for the borrower to make debt service payments under the mortgage loan and if the servicer failed to advance such amounts because it determined that advances were non-recoverable, this could result in a shortfall in the amounts available for distribution to the bondholders. Another risk present in the rent-to-own structure is a delay in the ability to foreclose on mortgaged properties that are subject to purchase options because the mortgages are subordinate to the purchase option right. As a result, the servicer may not be able to foreclose following an event of default under the loan unless the related purchase option period has expired. These risks are not applicable in standard SFR deals because the tenants do not hold purchase options with respect to the rental properties. (1)

I was somewhat skeptical that these types of securitizations would have much of a life once the housing bust worked itself out. It looks, however, like they might. Kroll is right to alert potential investors to the concerns outlined above. The CFPB and state regulators should also be looking at these cutting-edge transactions to ensure that residents of these homes are appropriately protected.

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