The Importance of Getting Fees Right Under TRID

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In the ever-changing landscape of the residential mortgage industry, navigating compliance challenges is crucial. Discover how the Dodd-Frank Act and TRID requirements impact the industry and how Easysoft's Real Estate Attorney Software can streamline compliance.

The residential mortgage industry has weathered an unprecedented season of change over the past two decades. Most recently, in the first half of 2023, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reformed the pricing framework of government-backed lending enterprises known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

To understand what was done and why FHFA is involved, one must first understand what the goal of the FHFA is: According to their own press release on April 24, 2023, FHFA is first and foremost a safety and soundness regulator. The Enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, regulated by FHFA, were chartered by Congress with a mission to provide liquidity, stability, and affordability by facilitating responsible access to mortgage credit through their activities in the secondary market.

To achieve this mission, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge fees to compensate them for guaranteeing borrowers’ mortgage payments, which in turn attracts investors across the globe to provide liquidity for the U.S. mortgage market and, ultimately, reduces interest rates for homeowners. Upfront fees are historically based on risk characteristics of the borrowers and the loans they are obtaining.

In, 2021, FHFA conducted a comprehensive review of the government-backed lending organizations’ pricing framework. The objectives were to: (1) maintain support for purchase-borrowers limited by income or wealth, (2) ensure a level playing field for large and small lenders, (3) foster capital accumulation at the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and (4) achieve commercially viable returns on capital over time.

Over the following 18 months, FHFA announced targeted fee increases for second-home loans, high-balance loans, and cash-out refinances. The administration also announced the elimination of upfront fees for certain groups core to the Enterprises’ mission, such as lower-income, but credit-worthy, first-time homebuyers, and later a recalibration of the upfront fees for most purchase and rate-term refinance loans.

While reform and oversight of the mortgage industry remains a constant, there are still some key areas in which businesses who are part of the residential mortgage production chain are left walking a fine line in the “grey areas”. Missteps can result in costly consequences. The passage of the Dodd-Frank Act and TRID requirements have resulted in the lowest residential loan default rate since early 2008, but the combination of these laws has also made it harder for consumers to get mortgages, and compliance to both of these has resulted in significant cost increases for the producers of those loans.

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform And Consumer Protection Act was implemented by Congress in 2010 " to promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end "too big to fail", to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for other purposes." The act includes about 200 pages of provisions directly relating to residential mortgages.

With regard to residential home loans, its primary purposes are to ensure that lenders verify a borrower's ability to repay a proposed mortgage before the loan is actually made, to reduce the number of high-risk loans made, and to provide consumers with an understandable presentation of all costs associated with the mortgage they are considering.

As a result, even consumers with excellent credit and verifiable income are required to present a great deal more documentation than ever before, and would-be homeowners with average credit are finding mortgages out of reach, both through the upgraded requirements for documentation, and through exceptionally tight credit and rising interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

For mortgage producers, this all means significantly more paperwork and laborious involvement to maintain full compliance while closing residential home loans.

TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Act (TRID)

As a result of the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress directed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to integrate two mortgage loan disclosures that were, until then, required by two separate Federal laws: the Truth In Lending Act (TILA, also known as Regulation Z) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA, also known as Regulation X). Because the two disclosures were developed independently, by two separate government agencies, they included redundant information, and were written in language that was inconsistent. TRID is the combined and streamlined version of the disclosure requirements, and its intent was to simplify the disclosure process and make the disclosures timelier and more understandable for consumers.

Unfortunately, TRID has proven less clear than hoped when it was first published in December 2013. The CFPB followed the original publication with amendments in January and July 2015, technical corrections to those amendments in December 2015, and a correction to supplementary information in February 2016. An additional set of amendments is currently under consideration, in another effort to make TRID work efficiently and effectively for both borrowers and lenders, while achieving its original goal of reducing the number of residential home loans made to people who don't fully understand the costs and/or do not have a realistic ability to repay that loan.

Ability to Repay and Qualified Mortgage Standards

The Ability to Repay and Qualified Mortgage (QM) standards are provisions of TILA-RESPA, which defines what constitutes a QM, directly addresses sections of the Dodd-Frank Act, requiring lenders to make a reasonable "good faith" determination of a consumer's ability to repay, and provides consumers protection against liability for QMs. In order to be considered a QM, a residential loan must have points and fees which total no more than three percent of the loan amount; no risky features like negative amortization, interest-only, or balloon payments; and a maximum loan term of thirty years.

In addition, a QM must meet the product feature requirements with a debt-to-income ratio of 43 percent of less; or is GSE-eligible; or a loan from a small creditor which is held in-portfolio, with consideration and verification of the borrower's debt-to-income ratio. While defining and verifying QMs has resulted in a lower default rate, it has also increased lenders' and producers' costs and liability, and reduced the number of mortgages they are able to produce each month.

Costly Errors with Fee Disclosures

TRID requires that every applicant for a residential mortgage be provided a Loan Estimate form within three days of their application, which discloses fees the applicant will have to pay, and limits fee changes the lender can make. Certain changes require re-disclosure, which slows transactions and adds to production costs, while other changes can result in penalties and monetary cures.

The types of fee changes are divided into three categories: Zero Tolerance, which are fees the lender has control over, so the assumption is that they should be able to accurately state those fees; Ten Percent Cumulative Tolerance fees, which is the largest category, including fees for services the lender is not providing, but for which the lender can reasonably predict the fee, such as recording, or in cases where the lender recommends a service provider to the consumer; and Unlimited Tolerance fees, which the lender has no control over, such as services provided by a vendor of the consumer's own choice, and the lender is not accountable for fee changes.

The civil monetary penalties for TRID compliance violations are based on terms set forth in Dodd-Frank, with adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and they provide strong motivation to maintain compliance in every transaction. First tier violations, which apply to any TRID violation, incur fines of up to $5,000 per day. Second tier violations are those which are found to be caused by lack of due care or recklessness on the part of the processor, carry fines of up to $25,000 a day. Third tier violations are deliberate violations, caused by knowing disregard for the regulations, and fines can reach $100,000 for every day that the violation remains uncorrected.

Violations include the following:

  • Under-Disclosure – Obviously, underestimating the amount of fees in the Zero Tolerance or Ten Percent Cumulative categories can result in compliance violations and steep fees, so it is critical every party in the mortgage production chain take care to gather, verify, and double-check each fee with care, and to carefully track that process in order to prevent any violations that might stem from missing information.
  • Padded Disclosure – At a cursory glance, it might seem like the best solution would simply be to over-estimate each fee, so there's no chance of under-disclosing. Unfortunately, the situation is more complex than that, and padding disclosures can also cause compliance violations and painful penalties. Because TRID requires lenders to exercise good faith and due diligence in providing the "best information reasonably available," and the most accurate estimate possible, a fee estimate that is knowingly padded is a violation.

    There is no tolerance cure required for too-high disclosures, but there are still those vicious civil monetary penalties to consider, and knowing violations incur tier three penalties. In addition, the CFPB can find lenders who knowingly pad fee disclosures to be acting in bad faith. Bad faith violations can be prosecuted as Unfair, Deceptive or Abusive Acts or Practices (UDAAP) and the statutory penalties can reach a staggering million dollars a day for willful violations. Padded fee estimates are not a safe or advisable way to protect against TRID violations at all.

  • Incorrect Balances in Documents – Excluding willful violations, the best way that providers can offer the most accurate estimates made in good faith all involve building a workflow that prompts every needed step, keeps the benchmarks and deadlines straight, and points out incomplete data. Documented policies and procedures, consistently followed by well-trained personnel using effective tools is the best defense against compliance violations of any kind. Maintaining an updated schedule for vendors on the List of Service Providers is critical. Monitoring the choices of each consumer and any changed circumstances also helps prevent any compliance errors due to oversight, which, while not willful, can still result in expensive cures or penalties.

Automated Compliance Support with Real Estate Attorney Software

Managing all the steps, forms, and deadlines required for full compliance can be a time-consuming process with plenty of opportunities to make a mistake which can be compounded as the transaction moves forward. Easysoft’s Legal Software Real Estate Closing Solutions helps speed up workflow and closings for attorneys and their staff with accurate and consistent forms that require less labor to generate.

Easysoft’s real estate legal software is built on a relational database, which means, data is entered just once, and any time that data is needed for a form, the software automation retrieves it and places the information into the selected form fields; this saves time over manual data entry on repetitive tasks and it significantly reduces human errors in the final forms.

Easysoft’s real estate attorney software is regularly updated with regulatory changes, so forms are always compliant with the latest requirements. With the ability to upload and customize the forms and documents you need on a regular basis, it's easy to set up the most repetitive aspects of closing documentation for fast, automated generation.

This real estate software is designed specifically for attorneys and also includes:

Simplify mortgage compliance with Easysoft's Real Estate Attorney Software. Take advantage of our free 7-day trial and experience streamlined closings today.

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