More than 90 members of the House of Representatives are urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to provide a legal safe harbor in the final qualified mortgage rule to protect lenders from frivolous lawsuits.
House Financial Services subcommittee chairman Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., noted that the underwriting standards and the legal protections in the QM rule need to provide sufficient consumer protection but without the effect of restricting credit.
“If there is not sufficient legal certainty for these loans, the cost of credit could rise as well as fewer mortgages could be issued,” Capito said at a hearing Wednesday.
Reps. Capito and Brad Sherman, D-Calif., are circulating a letter urging the bureau to adopt a “safe harbor” to shield lenders from costly litigation. The letter will be sent to the CFPB later this week with over 90 signatures, she said.
The CFPB is considering whether to provide lenders with a “rebuttable presumption” or a “safe harbor” in the QM rule.
Consumer groups claim a rebuttable presumption is needed so consumers harmed by lenders have access to the courts. Most lenders claim the rebuttable presumption would lead to costly legal challenges and settlements even for lenders that fully comply with QM underwriting standards and that a safe harbor is needed.
“We all want consumers to have safely underwritten mortgages,” Capito said at the hearing. “However, we must ensure that these reforms do not increase the cost of mortgage credit and therefore restrict creditworthy borrowers from receiving their mortgages.”
At the hearing, the National Association of Mortgage Brokers urged Congress to extend the deadlines for finalizing the QM rule and other mortgage rules mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act by 18 months. Such an extension would give Congress time to amend the act, according to NAMB’s government affairs chairman John Hudson.
The subcommittee chairman stressed that it is important for CFPB to finalize the QM rule before the Jan. 21 statutory deadline to end the uncertainty. “I am urging them to meet this deadline so lenders and borrowers have the certainty necessary to move forward,” Capito said.
“While we want to make sure CFPB produces a workable rule, we also want to see that they do so in a timely fashion,” she said.