Some mortgage servicers break U.S. rules, mostly due to technology -consumer bureau

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some mortgage servicers are failing to follow federal rules intended to help struggling borrowers avoid foreclosure, often because they use faulty technology, the U.S. agency charged with protecting consumers’ finances said on Wednesday.

In a report, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found some servicers, the conduits for mortgage payments, are falling short of the rules put in place after the housing market imploded that allow borrowers to modify their loans and find alternatives to foreclosure. Generally, some servicers are giving homeowners wrong or outdated information, or no information at all, according to the report, which did not name servicers or provide statistics on the prevalence of rulebreaking.

“Mortgage servicers can’t hide behind their bad computer systems or outdated technology. There are no excuses for not following federal rules,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement.

Some failures that CFPB examiners identified have already been remedied, the report said.

Homebuyers do not choose servicers, which can be banks such as Wells Fargo or firms such as Nationstar Mortgage, and their loans can be transferred among servicers. The real estate finance trade group, Mortgage Bankers Association, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

As defaults spiked during the 2007-09 financial crisis, servicers came under intense scrutiny for missing paperwork, incomplete documentation, and “robosigning,” where employees signed off on foreclosures without review.

According to Wednesday’s report, examiners for the CFPB, found misrepresentations of terms, fees and deadlines for loans and modifications in recent communications from servicers. The CFBP said loss mitigation and transfers were the primary problem areas, and that servicers “continue to use failed technology that has already harmed consumers.”

Some servicers offered borrowers loan modifications with response deadlines that had already passed and others “made it impossible for a borrower to understand the true nature of how and when ... charges would be assessed.” At least one servicer failed to send out any acknowledgments of receiving borrowers’ applications for loss mitigation because of technology malfunctions.

Some notices that modifications had been denied said borrowers did not provide requested information, even though the applications were complete, and other notices gave no reason at all. Also, some borrowers were not told that they could appeal denials, the CFPB found.

The CFPB said it will seek “specific and credible plans” from servicers describing how they will improve their technology and fix problems examiners identified.