The federal financial institution regulatory agencies and the state financial regulators issued a joint policy statement providing needed regulatory flexibility to enable mortgage servicers to work with struggling consumers affected by the Coronavirus Disease emergency. The actions announced today by the agencies inform servicers of the agencies' flexible supervisory and enforcement approach during the COVID-19 pandemic regarding certain communications to consumers required by the mortgage servicing rules. The policy statement and guidance issued today will facilitate mortgage servicers' ability to place consumers in short-term payment forbearance programs such as the one established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
Under the CARES Act, borrowers in a federally backed mortgage loan experiencing a financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 pandemic, may request forbearance by making a request to their mortgage servicer and affirming that they are experiencing a financial hardship during the COVID–19 pandemic. In response, servicers must provide a CARES Act forbearance, that allows borrowers to defer their mortgage payments for up to 180-days and possibly longer.
The policy statement clarifies that the agencies do not intend to take supervisory or enforcement action against mortgage servicers for delays in sending certain early intervention and loss mitigation notices and taking certain actions relating to loss mitigation set out in the mortgage servicing rules, provided that servicers are making good faith efforts to provide these notices and take these actions within a reasonable time.
To further enable short-term payment forbearance programs or short-term repayment plans, mortgage servicers offering these programs or plans will not have to provide an acknowledgment notice within 5 days of receipt of an incomplete application, provided the servicer sends the acknowledgment notice before the end of the forbearance or repayment period.
The guidance also reminds servicers that there is existing flexibility in the rules with respect to the content of certain notices. Finally, to assist servicers experiencing high call volumes from consumers seeking help, the policy statement also confirms that the agencies do not intend to take supervisory or enforcement action against mortgage servicers for delays in sending annual escrow statements, provided that servicers are making good faith efforts to provide these statements within a reasonable time.
Additionally, the Federal Reserve Board has announced a temporary change to its supplementary leverage ratio rule. The change would exclude U.S. Treasury securities and deposits at Federal Reserve Banks from the calculation of the rule for holding companies, and will be in effect until March 31, 2021.
Liquidity conditions in Treasury markets have deteriorated rapidly, and financial institutions are receiving significant inflows of customer deposits along with increased reserve levels. The regulatory restrictions that accompany this balance sheet growth may constrain the firms' ability to continue to serve as financial intermediaries and to provide credit to households and businesses. The change to the supplementary leverage ratio will mitigate the effects of those restrictions and better enable firms to support the economy.