WASHINGTON — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proposed slight tweaks to help clarify mortgage rules first issued in January.

The proposal fills a timeline gap between the new and old escrow rules and clarifies the exemptions for several new mortgage regulations, including the ability-to-repay, qualified mortgage and escrow rules.

"We want these updates to provide further clarity and guidance on how to comply with the rules," the bureau said in a blog posting late Friday that went largely unnoticed. "They are an opportunity to address important questions raised by industry, consumer groups, and other agencies."

The exemptions in the mortgage rules added both relief and some confusion for lenders that initially thought they would not be able to write mortgages outside of the qualified mortgage rule. The bureau sought to clarify such exemptions by proposing to use the codes established by the USDA's Economic Research Service to define "rural" counties; and the HMDA (Home Mortgage Disclosure Act) data for "underserved" counties. The agency said it posted a preliminary list of counties on its website.

The CFPB also addressed a technical error that created a 6-month gap between the old escrow rule and the new escrow rule that expands protections for consumers on higher-priced mortgages. The agency has proposed a temporary provision so existing consumer protections will remain in effect until the new rule kicks in next January.

The entire proposal is open for comment until 15 days after it's published in the Federal Register.

The CFPB also said it plans to propose additional clarifications and guidance on its new mortgage rules later this month.

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