WASHINGTON ó Mortgage servicing issues continue to be a significant problem despite a renewed focus on the area in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The agency specifically cited "sloppy" and "poor" practices related to mortgage transfers, payment processing and loss mitigation procedures. Although most of the focus to date has been on bank-owned mortgage servicers, the largest of which have signed settlement agreements with federal and state authorities pledging to improve their systems, the report said nonbanks also lacked adequate compliance management systems.
"Our examinations of banks and nonbanks allow us to correct problems before more consumers are affected," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a press release. "Today's report highlights both the mortgage servicing problems throughout the industry and the challenges of making sure that nonbanks are following federal law. Fixing both is a priority for us.
Mortgage servicing has been a top concern for the CFPB since it first began examining financial institutions, but the agency said it continues to unearth problems. Recent exams between November and June found that mortgage transfers were still lacking important paperwork and servicers were not telling customers when a loan is transferred to another company, the report said. When there is a change of address or cancellation of mortgage insurance payments, the CFPB found servicers are not processing mortgage payments accurately or timely, resulting in higher fees for borrowers.
The CFPB has also been heavily focused on loss mitigation programs, but it found "inconsistent" underwriting of such loans among struggling borrowers as well as mixed messages provided to borrowers about their programs and the status of their modifications.
The CFPB said in all of the cases where it found mortgage servicing problems, the agency's examiners told the company how to remediate it and opened an investigation when appropriate.
"CFPB's corrective measures included making sure that important papers were filed appropriately, that servicers improved their policies and procedures governing the handling of loans in loss mitigation, and that consumers were treated according to the law," the release said.
The CFPB also offered guidance to nonbanks that lacked proper policies and procedures, detailing what steps they must take.
"The CFPB is committed to helping industry establish good compliance systems and today's report also offers guidance in how to do so," the CFPB said. "In general, both banks and nonbanks have committed to improving their compliance management systems in the future."