Deconstructing the QM Safe Harbor in Construction to Permanent Loans; CFPB Mortgage Servicing Guide Updates
Written by Reginald Watson, Regulatory Compliance Counsel, NAFCU
Greetings Compliance Friends!
It has been a few years since the CFPB's implementation of the ability to repay requirements and qualified mortgage safe harbor, yet many credit unions still find the points and fees calculations confusing, particularly the scale of the exemption for construction loans in the context of a hybrid construction to permanent loan. As a reminder, Regulation Z now requires credit unions to consider a consumer's ability to repay a residential mortgage loan and these requirements are set out in section 1026.43(c).
Loans that meet the standard of a qualified mortgage under sections 1026.43(e) or (f) are given a presumption that the borrower has the ability to repay. The calculation of all applicable points and fees are an aspect of determining whether a transaction is a qualified mortgage and therefore, whether the transaction is presumed to meet the “ability-to-repay” requirements of section 1026.43(c). The procedures for counting points and fees are the same as those provided in the high cost mortgage rule found in section 1026.32(b)(1). The credit union is required to establish a member's ability to repay for only those residential mortgage loans which are covered by the scope of section 1026.43(a), which contains a specific exemption for "a construction phase of 12 months or less of a construction-to-permanent loan." 12 C.F.R. §1026.43(a)(3)(iii). If a loan is outside the scope of section 1026.43(a), then there is no regulatory requirement to establish a consumer's ability to repay under section 1026.43 or calculate the points and fees.
So, how do we account for the points and fees calculation when the credit union is financing the permanent loan in addition to the construction phase?
The commentary to Regulation Z seems to give us two options: for purposes of the qualified mortgage rule, the credit union may treat the construction phase and the permanent phase as one single transaction, or as two separate transactions. Either way, the credit union would be required to follow the procedures under section 1026.32(b)(1) to calculate the points and fees for all applicable charges for both the construction phase and the life of the loan. However, it is not entirely clear how to allocate fees between the construction and permanent phase of a loan – but the preamble to the ATR/QM rule indicates that the ability to treat these kinds of loans as either one or two transactions draws upon section 1026.17(c)(6)(ii)-5. The preamble also referred back to section 1026.17(c)(6)(ii) in other areas, so while not entirely clear, it seems this rule may be helpful guidance generally. The staff commentary to section 1026.17(c)(6)(ii)-5 seems to suggest that when separating the transactions, the points and fees may be allocated as the credit union sees fit:
- Allocation of costs.When a creditor uses the special rule in §1026.17(c)(6) to disclose credit extensions as multiple transactions, fees and charges must be allocated for purposes of calculating disclosures. In the case of a construction-permanent loan that a creditor chooses to disclose as multiple transactions, the creditor must allocate to the construction transaction finance charges under §1026.4 and points and fees under §1026.32(b)(1) that would not be imposed but for the construction financing. For example, inspection and handling fees for the staged disbursement of construction loan proceeds must be included in the disclosures for the construction phase and may not be included in the disclosures for the permanent phase. If a creditor charges separate amounts for finance charges under §1026.4 and points and fees under §1026.32(b)(1) for the construction phase and the permanent phase, such amounts must be allocated to the phase for which they are charged. If a creditor charges an origination fee for construction financing only but charges a greater origination fee for construction-permanent financing, the difference between the two fees must be allocated to the permanent phase. All other finance charges under §1026.4 and points and fees under §1026.32(b)(1) must be allocated to the permanent financing. Fees and charges that are not used to compute the finance charge under §1026.4 or points and fees under §1026.32(b)(1) may be allocated between the transactions in any manner the creditor chooses. For example, a reasonable appraisal fee paid to an independent, third-party appraiser may be allocated in any manner the creditor chooses because it would be excluded from the finance charge pursuant to §1026.4(c)(7) and excluded from points and fees pursuant to §1026.32(b)(1)(iii).
Thus, it seems that the credit union may make a risk-based business decision when allocating points and fees for purposes of the qualified mortgage safe harbor for the permanent financing phase of the loan. Appendix D to Reg Z provides specific guidance on how to make the actual calculations when these loans are treated as separate transactions in Part I or as a single transaction in Part II.
CFPB Issues Update to Small Entity Compliance Guide
On March 29, 2018, CFPB updated the Mortgage Servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide (version 3.1) to incorporate recent amendments to the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Rules. As you may recall, we discussed these amendments in a previous NAFCU blogpost. Check out this link for our other blogs on the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Rules. CFPB also recently created a mortgage servicing coverage chart that credit unions may find helpful.