Fifth Third Charged by HUD in Disability Discrimination Suit

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is charging Fifth Third (FITB) with discriminating against a couple with disabilities who were attempting to refinance their mortgage.

Fifth Third's banking unit, mortgage division and Cranbrook Mortgage Corp. are accused of requiring unnecessary medical documentation from the couple, HUD announced Thursday. The couple claim they were required  to provide a physician's statement for proof of disability income.

Federal law allows lenders to verify income, but they are barred from placing higher qualification standards on applicants who receive disability payments. The Fair Housing Act also prohibits lenders from inquiring about the nature or severity of a disability.

"Persons with disabilities should not have to meet higher mortgage qualification standards because they rely on disability insurance payments as a source of income," HUD's Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Bryan Greene said in a statement. "Banks and mortgage companies may verify income and have eligibility standards, but they may not single out homebuyers with disabilities or deny financing when they are otherwise qualified."

A Fifth Third spokeswoman declined to comment.

The $119 billion-asset Fifth Third, of Cincinnati, is the latest in a string of mortgage lenders charged with engaging in discriminatory lending practices. Bank of America (BAC) settled in a disability discrimination suit in September; PNC Financial Services is currently under investigation for discriminatory mortgage lending practices.

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