The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has shared its Principles for the Future of Loss Mitigation. It opens,
This document outlines four principles, Accessibility, Affordability, Sustainability, and Transparency, that provide a framework for discussion about the future of loss mitigation as the nation moves beyond the housing and economic crisis that began in 2007. As the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is phased out, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is considering the lessons learned from HAMP while looking forward to the continuing loss mitigation needs of consumers in a post-HAMP world. These principles build on, but are distinct from, the backdrop of the Bureau’s mortgage servicing rules and its supervisory and enforcement authority. This document does not establish binding legal requirements. These principles are intended to complement ongoing discussions among industry, consumer groups and policymakers on the development of loss mitigation programs that span the full spectrum of both home retention options such as forbearance, repayment plans and modifications, and home disposition options such as short sales and deeds-in-lieu.
The future environment of mortgage default is expected to look very different than it did during the crisis. Underwriting based on the ability to repay rule is already resulting in fewer defaults. Mortgage investors have recognized the value of resolving delinquencies early when defaults do occur. Mortgage servicers have developed systems and processes for working with borrowers in default. The CFPB’s mortgage servicing rules have established clear guardrails for early intervention, dual tracking, and customer communication; however, they do not require loss mitigation options beyond those offered by the investor nor do they define every element of loss mitigation execution.
Yet, even with an improved horizon and regulatory guardrails, there is ample opportunity for consumer harm if loss mitigation programs evolve without incorporating key learnings from the crisis. While there is broad agreement within the industry on the high level principles, determining how they translate into programs is more nuanced. Further development of these principles and their implementation is necessary to prevent less desirable consumer outcomes and to ensure the continuance of appropriate consumer protections.
The CFPB concludes,
The CFPB believes these principles are flexible enough to encompass a range of approaches to loss mitigation, recognizing the legitimate interests of consumers, investors and servicers. One of the lessons of HAMP is that loss mitigation that is good for consumers is usually good for investors, as well. The CFPB therefore seeks to engage all stakeholders in a discussion of the principles for future loss mitigation.
I have no beef with this set of principles as far as it goes, but I am concerned that it does not explicitly include a discussion of the role of state court foreclosures in loss mitigation. As this blog has well documented, homeowners are facing Kafkaesque, outrageous, even hellish, behavior by servicers in state foreclosure actions. Even if the federal government cannot address state law issues directly, these issues should be included as part of the discussion of the problems that homeowners face when their mortgages go into default.