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Obligations of Mortgage Servicers

Cranston Gonzales Act, 12 U.S.C. 2605

The Cranston Gonzales amendment to RESPA, 12 U.S.C. 2605, imposes two obligations on mortgage servicers.

First, when servicing is transferred, both the transferor and transferee must give the borrower a notice containing prescribed information. Unless the notice is provided at closing, the transferor must generally give notice 15 days in advance of transfer and the transferee 15 days after transfer:

(b) Notice by transferor or loan servicing at time of transfer.

(1) Notice requirement. Each servicer of any federally related mortgage loan shall notify the borrower in writing of any assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of the loan to any other person.

(2) Time of notice.

(A) In general. Except as provided under subparagraphs (B) and (C), the notice required under paragraph (1) shall be made to the borrower not less than 15 days before the effective date of transfer of the servicing of the mortgage loan (with respect to which such notice is made).

(B) Exception for certain proceedings. The notice required under paragraph (1) shall be made to the borrower not more than 30 days after the effective date of assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of the mortgage loan (with respect to which such notice is made) in any case in which the assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of the mortgage loan is preceded by--

(i) termination of the contract for servicing the loan for cause;

(ii) commencement of proceedings for bankruptcy of the servicer; or

(iii) commencement of proceedings by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Resolution Trust Corporation for conservatorship or receivership of the servicer (or an entity by which the servicer is owned or controlled).

(C) Exception for notice provided at closing. The provisions of subparagraphs (A) and (B) shall not apply to any assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of any mortgage loan if the person who makes the loan provides to the borrower, at settlement (with respect to the property for which the mortgage loan is made), written notice under paragraph (3) of such transfer.

(3) Contents of notice. The notice required under paragraph (1) shall include the following information:

(A) The effective date of transfer of the servicing described in such paragraph.

(B) The name, address, and toll-free or collect call telephone number of the transferee servicer.

(C) A toll-free or collect call telephone number for (i) an individual employed by the transferor servicer, or (ii) the department of the transferor servicer, that can be contacted by the borrower to answer inquiries relating to the transfer of servicing.

(D) The name and toll-free or collect call telephone number for (i) an individual employed by the transferee servicer, or (ii) the department of the transferee servicer, that can be contacted by the borrower to answer inquiries relating to the transfer of servicing.

(E) The date on which the transferor servicer who is servicing the mortgage loan before the assignment, sale, or transfer will cease to accept payments relating to the loan and the date on which the transferee servicer will begin to accept such payments.

(F) Any information concerning the effect the transfer may have, if any, on the terms of or the continued availability of mortgage life or disability insurance or an other type of optional insurance and what action, if any, the borrower must take to maintain coverage.

(G) A statement that the assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of the mortgage loan does not affect any term or condition of the security instruments other than terms directly related to the servicing of such loan.

(c) Notice by transferee or loan servicing at time of transfer.

(1) Notice requirement. Each transferee servicer to whom the servicing of an federally related mortgage loan is assigned, sold, or transferred shall notify the borrower of any such assignment, sale, or transfer.

(2) Time of notice.

(A) In general. Except as provided in subparagraphs (B) and (C), the notice required under paragraph (1) shall be made to the borrower not more than 15 days after the effective date of transfer of the servicing of the mortgage loan (with respect to which such notice is made).

(B) Exception for certain proceedings. The notice required under paragraph (1) shall be made to the borrower not more than 30 days after the effective date of assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of the mortgage loan (with respect to which such notice is made) in any case in which the assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of the mortgage loan is preceded by--

(i) termination of the contract for servicing the loan for cause;

(ii) commencement of proceedings for bankruptcy of the servicer; or

(iii) commencement of proceedings by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Resolution Trust Corporation for conservatorship or receivership of the servicer (or an entity by which the servicer is owned or controlled).

(C) Exception for notice provided at closing. The provisions of subparagraphs (A) and (B) shall not apply to any assignment, sale, or transfer of the servicing of any mortgage loan if the person who makes the loan provides to the borrower, at settlement (with respect to the property for which the mortgage loan is made), written notice under paragraph (3) of such transfer.

(3) Contents of notice. Any notice required under paragraph (1) shall include the information described in subsection (b)(3).

Payments made to the wrong party during the transition period cannot be treated as late:

(d) Treatment of loan payments during transfer period. During the 60-day period beginning on the effective date of transfer of the servicing of any federally related mortgage loan, a late fee may not be imposed on the borrower with respect to any payment on such loan and no such payment may be treated as late for any other purposes, if the payment is received by the transferor servicer (rather than the transferee servicer who should properly receive payment) before the due date applicable to such payment.

Second, the statute imposes an obligation on a mortgage servicer to respond to a "qualified written request" inquiring or complaining about the account:

(e) Duty of loan servicer to respond to borrower inquiries.

(1) Notice of receipt of inquiry.

(A) In general. If any servicer of a federally related mortgage loan receives a qualified written request from the borrower (or an agent of the borrower) for information relating to the servicing of such loan, the servicer shall provide a written response acknowledging receipt of the correspondence within 20 days (excluding legal public holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays) unless the action requested is taken within such period.

(B) Qualified written request. For purposes of this subsection, a qualified written request shall be a written correspondence, other than notice on a payment coupon or other payment medium supplied by the servicer, that

(i) includes, or otherwise enables the servicer to identify, the name and account of the borrower; and

(ii) includes a statement of the reasons for the belief of the borrower, to the extent applicable, that the account is in error or provides sufficient detail to the servicer regarding other information sought by the borrower.

(2) Action with respect to inquiry. Not later than 60 days (excluding legal public holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays) after the receipt from any borrower of any qualified written request under paragraph (1) and, if applicable, before taking any action with respect to the inquiry of the borrower, the servicer shall

(A) make appropriate corrections in the account of the borrower, including the crediting of any late charges or penalties, and transmit to the borrower a written notification of such correction (which shall include the name and telephone number of a representative of the servicer who can provide assistance to the borrower);

(B) after conducting an investigation, provide the borrower with a written explanation or clarification that includes--

(i) to the extent applicable, a statement of the reasons for which the servicer believes the account of the borrower is correct as determined by the servicer; and

(ii) the name and telephone number of an individual employed by, or the office or department of, the servicer who can provide assistance to the borrower; or

(C) after conducting an investigation, provide the borrower with a written explanation or clarification that includes--

(i) information requested by the borrower or an explanation of why the information requested is unavailable or cannot be obtained by the servicer; and

(ii) the name and telephone number of an individual employed by, or the office or department of, the servicer who can provide assistance to the borrower.

(3) Protection of credit rating. During the 60-day period beginning on the date of the servicer's receipt from any borrower of a qualified written request relating to a dispute regarding the borrower's payments, a servicer may not provide information regarding any overdue payment, owed by such borrower and relating to such period or qualified written request, to any consumer reporting agency (as such term is defined under section 603 of the Fair Reporting Act [15 U.S.C. 1681a]).

The request must relate to "servicing." A request directed solely to the validity of the mortgage documents has been held not to qualify. Morequity, Inc. v. Naeem, 118 F.Supp.2d 885, 901 (N.D.Ill. 2000). However, anything relating to debits and credits made to the account or to which the borrower may be entitled should qualify. If the borrower asks for the justification for some charge or fee and the justification is a provision in the note or mortgage, the instrument should be provided.

There is an express private right of action for violation of these obligations. 12 U.S.C. 2605(f) provides:

(f) Damages and costs. Whoever fails to comply with any provision of this section shall be liable to the borrower for each such failure in the following amounts:

(1) Individuals. In the case of any action by an individual, an amount equal to the sum of--

(A) any actual damages to the borrower as a result of the failure; and

(B) any additional damages, as the court may allow, in the case of a pattern or practice of noncompliance with the requirements of this section, in an amount not to exceed $ 1,000.

(2) Class actions. In the case of a class action, an amount equal to the sum of

(A) any actual damages to each of the borrowers in the class as a result of the failure; and

(B) any additional damages, as the court may allow, in the case of a pattern or practice of noncompliance with the requirements of this section, in an amount not greater than $ 1,000 for each member of the class, except that the total amount of damages under this subparagraph in any class action may not exceed the lesser of--

(i) $ 500,000; or

(ii) 1 percent of the net worth of the servicer.

(3) Costs. In addition to the amounts under paragraph (1) or (2), in the case of any successful action under this section, the costs of the action, together with any attorneys fees incurred in connection with such action as the court may determine to be reasonable under the circumstances.

(4) Nonliability. A transferor or transferee servicer shall not be liable under this subsection for any failure to comply with any requirement under this section if, within 60 days after discovering an error (whether pursuant to a final written examination report or the servicer's own procedures) and before the commencement of an action under this subsection and the receipt of written notice of the error from the borrower, the servicer notifies the person concerned of the error and makes whatever adjustments are necessary in the appropriate account to ensure that the person will not be required to pay an amount in excess of any amount that the person otherwise would have paid.

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