Bank Break-ins

"Balaclava 3 hole black" by Tobias "ToMar" Maier. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Chris Odinet has posted Banks, Break-Ins, and Bad Actors in Mortgage Foreclosure to SSRN. The abstract reads,

During the housing crisis banks were confronted with a previously unknown number mortgage foreclosures, and even as the height of the crisis has passed lenders are still dealing with a tremendous backlog. Overtime lenders have increasingly engaged third party contractors to assist them in managing these assets. These property management companies — with supposed expertise in the management and preservation of real estate — have taken charge of a large swathe of distressed properties in order to ensure that, during the post-default and pre-foreclosure phases, the property is being adequately preserved and maintained. But in mid-2013 a flurry of articles began cropping up in newspapers and media outlets across the country recounting stories of people who had fallen behind on their mortgage payments returning home one day to find that all of their belongings had been taken and their homes heavily damaged. These homeowners soon discovered that it was not a random thief that was the culprit, but rather property management contractors hired by the homeowners’ mortgage servicer.

The issues arising from these practices have become so pervasive that lawsuits have been filed in over 30 states, and legal aid organizations in California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and New York report that complaints against lender-engaged property managements firms number among their top grievances. This Article analyzes lender-engaged property management firms and these break-in foreclosure activities. In doing so, the paper makes a three-part call to action, which includes the implementation of bank contractor oversight regulations, the creation of a private cause of action for aggrieved homeowners, and the curtailment of property preservation clauses in mortgage contracts.

This is a timely article about a cutting edge issue. All too often I have heard pro-bank lawyers claim that banks almost never foreclose improperly. The news reports and lawsuits discussed in this article counter that claim. And yet, I hope that some empirically-minded person could quantify the frequency of such misbehavior to better inform policymakers going forward.

The (R)evolution of Single-Family Rental Securitization

Kroll Bond Rating Agency distributed its Single-Family Rental Securitization Methodology. Because this is a new asset class, it is interesting to watch how rating agency’s assess the risks inherent in it. And it will be interesting, of course, to evaluate down the road whether they got it right or not. The Methodology states that

Single-family Rental (SFR) securitizations are a new class of asset-backed securities with characteristics of both commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) and residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). Like CMBS, the primary source of certificateholder distributions during the term of an SFR transaction are loan debt service payments that are generated by income producing real estate collateral. Also like CMBS, there is an element of balloon risk, as SFR loans do not fully amortize over their terms, and the repayment of ultimate principal on the certificates is dependent upon a successful refinance of the loan or loans that serve as trust collateral. However, there is a broader source of demand for the single-family homes underlying an SFR securitization, which can be sold into the vast market for owner-occupied homes, totaling approximately 79 million units. In the event that the pool of single-family homes backing an SFR securitization needs to be partially or entirely liquidated due to an event of default either during the loan’s term or at the loan’s maturity, the expected recovery from such a distressed sale of homes would be largely determined by the conditions in the larger market for single-family homes, which is a primary focus of RMBS analysis.

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the SFR securitization market is currently characterized by large institutional sponsors that have engaged in purchasing and refurbishing large numbers of single-family homes in distressed markets over relatively short periods of time.

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As this is an evolving asset class, we will modify or adjust our methodology to address new transaction features as they emerge. SFR securitizations to date have been collateralized by a single large loan that is in turn secured by mortgages on several thousand income producing single-family homes. While this methodology is designed for this structure, it is also applicable to securitizations secured by a few large loans. Structures featuring a larger number of loans to distinct borrowers, many of whom may be non-institutional in nature, pose additional credit considerations that are not addressed herein. (3)

This summary demonstrates that there are a lot of new characteristics for this asset-class that Kroll is trying to capture in its rating methodology. These include the hybrid nature of the security itself; the hybrid nature of the underlying collateral for the security; the innovative business model of institutional investors entering the single-family market in a big way; and the possible entry of new players in that market, such as non-institutional ones; and changes in the type of collateral underlying the securities.

The takeaway for readers: don’t mistake the apparent simplicity of a rating (AAA, Aaa) as a signal of the solidity of the reasoning that went into it. Ratings, particularly those for new types of securities, are constantly evolving. To think otherwise is to risk being left holding a bag filled with all of lemons that the market has to offer to unsuspecting investors.