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Can’t See The Forest for the Trees: CitiMortgage and HUD Dispute about the Details of Borrower Eligibility for the FHA Preforeclosure Sale Program

- Friday, October 21, 2011

Here is an interesting case, of not being able to see the forest for the trees: the dispute between HUD and CitiMortgage regarding evaluating borrower eligibility for FHA’s Preforeclosure Sale Program (PFS). While HUD focuses on the details of borrower eligibility for the PFS program, CitiMortgage contends that the details of the plan are less important than the overall aim: cutting losses for both borrowers and lenders.

The HUD’s Office of Inspector General has released its new audit report of Citimortgage, Inc. According to the HUD audit report, CitiMortgage did not properly determine borrower eligibility for FHA’s PFS program. Included in the 103-page audit report is CitiMortgage’s response to the HUD claims.

Guidelines for the FHA PFS program are outlined in FHA Mortgagee Letter 2008-43, a letter to all lenders which outlines the aims of the PFS program.

FHA provides mortgage insurance for loans by borrowers who are considered to be “risky” - whose credit history is poor or moderate, or who can only come up with a small deposit.

The FHA PFS program is for borrowers who have an FHA-insured loan, and who find themselves unable to meet their mortgage payments, and unable to sell the home because it is worth less than the balance owing on the mortgage. The PFS program helps borrowers to avoid foreclosure by providing cash incentives to both borrowers and lenders, to encourage them to negotiate a pre-foreclosure sale, rather than let the mortgage proceed to foreclosure.

The dispute between HUD and CitiMortgage comes from different interpretations of eligibility criteria outlined in FHA Mortgage Letter 2008-43. HUD works with numerous lenders; they identified CitiMortgage for this audit because of “an issue identified
in a prior review and a review conducted by HUD’s quality assurance division.”

HUD reviewed 68 loans that CitiMortgage had submitted claims on. Claims paid out by HUD on these loans included mortgage insurance payments (on the deficiency balances) as well as incentive payments to both borrowers and lenders. According to HUD’s review, though, CitiMortgage did not properly determine borrower eligibility for the FHA PFS program for 63 of these loans. A total of nearly $5 million was paid out by HUD to CitiMortgage for those 63 loans. The auditors have recommended that CitiMortgage reimburse HUD for these claims.

The report details, case-by-case, examples where HUD contends that CitiMortgage did not determine borrower eligibility criteria. According to HUD, CitiMortgage did not follow eligibility guidelines detailed in Mortgage Letter 2008-43, including:

  • borrowers’ reason for default is a result of an “adverse and unavoidable situation”
  • expenses and income claimed by borrowers were not independently verified by CitiMortgage
  • borrowers with assets were not required to repay the indebtedness through a repayment plan
  • borrowers who were still current on their mortgages were accepted into the plan, and HUD disputes CitiMortgage’s determination of borrowers facing “imminent default”

CitiMortgage has responded to the audit (their response is included in the audit report as Appendix B), defending their practices, and indicating that only 7 of the 63 examples that HUD has presented have any merit.

Most significantly, though, CitiMortgage’s Director of Default Servicing, Brian McWhorter, wrote in his response to HUD:
“In our view, if the changes recommended in the draft report are implemented, the PFS process would slow down and negatively impact borrowers by now allwing them to qualify for a short sales treatment, possibly resulting in foreclosure and a higher loss.”

McWhorter goes on to explain that, in all of the sampled cases, the pre-foreclosure sale that was executed represented a lower loss to CitiMortgage than a foreclosure proceeding followed by an REO sale would have.

Avoiding foreclosure, through FHA’s Preforeclosure Sale Program and through numerous other short sale and foreclosure-prevention programs that exist, is in everyone’s best interest. The faster that short sales can be processed, the more foreclosures will be avoided - and the more quickly our housing market will turn towards recovery.

For more information, download The Homeowner's Guide to the U.S. Government Short Sale Programs, our free in-house guide to the FHA PFS program as well as to VA, HAFA, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae short sale programs.

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