Alston & Bird Consumer Finance Blog

Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage

Complying with the “Consider” Requirement Under the Revised Qualified Mortgage Rules

A&B Abstract:

Purchasers of residential mortgage loans who are conducting audits of residential mortgages that they buy in the secondary market are struggling to determine what documentation satisfies the “consider” requirement of the revised qualified mortgage (QM) standards that became mandatory on October 1, 2022. In fact, originators of residential mortgage loans are not in agreement regarding what particular written policies and procedures they must promulgate and maintain and the documentation that they should include in the loan files. We set forth what we believe are the policies and procedures and the documentation that creditors must maintain and provide to their counterparties to comply with the consider requirement.

The Revised QM Rules

As a threshold matter, on December 10, 2020, Kathy Kraninger, who was the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), issued the revised QM rules that replaced Appendix Q and the strict 43% debt-to-income ratio (DTI) underwriting threshold with a priced-based QM loan definition. The revised QM rules also terminated the QM Patch, under which certain loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not have to be underwritten to Appendix Q or satisfy the capped 43% DTI requirement. Compliance with the new rules became mandatory on October 1, 2022.

Under the revised rules, for first-lien transactions, a loan receives a conclusive presumption that the consumer had the ability to repay (and hence receives the safe harbor presumption of QM compliance) if the annual percentage rate does not exceed the average prime offer rate (APOR) for a comparable transaction by 1.5 percentage points or more as of the date the interest rate is set. A first-lien loan receives a “rebuttable presumption” that the consumer had the ability to repay if the APR exceeds the APOR for a comparable transaction by 1.5 percentage points or more but by less than 2.25 percentage points. The revised QM rules provide for higher thresholds for loans with smaller loan amounts, for subordinate-lien transactions, and for certain manufactured housing loans.

To qualify for QM status, the loan must continue to meet the statutory requirements regarding the 3% points and fees limits, and it must not contain negative amortization, a balloon payment (except in the existing limited circumstances), or a term exceeding 30 years.

Consider and Verify Consumer Income and Assets

In lieu of underwriting to Appendix Q, the revised rule requires that the creditor consider the consumer’s current or reasonably expected income or assets other than the value of the dwelling (including any real property attached to the dwelling) that secures the loan, debt obligations, alimony, child support, and DTI ratio or residual income. The final rule also requires the creditor to verify the consumer’s current or reasonably expected income or assets other than the value of the dwelling (including any real property attached to the dwelling) that secures the loan and the consumer’s current debt obligations, alimony, and child support.

In particular, to comply with the consider requirement under the rule, the CFPB provides creditors the option to consider either the consumer’s monthly residual income or DTI. The CFPB imposes no bright-line DTI limits or residual income thresholds. As part of the consider requirement, a creditor must maintain policies and procedures for how it takes into account the underwriting factors enumerated above and retain documentation showing how it took these factors into account in its ability-to-repay determination.

The CFPB indicates that this documentation may include, for example, “an underwriter worksheet or a final automated underwriting system certification, in combination with the creditor’s applicable underwriting standards and any applicable exceptions described in its policies and procedures, that shows how these required factors were taken into account in the creditor’s ability-to-repay determination.”

CFPB Staff Commentary

Paragraph 43(e)(2)(v)(A) of the CFPB Staff Commentary to Regulation Z requires creditors to comply with the consider requirement of the new QM rule by doing the following:

a creditor must take into account current or reasonably expected income or assets other than the value of the dwelling (including any real property attached to the dwelling) that secures the loan, debt obligations, alimony, child support, and monthly debt-to-income ratio or residual income in its ability-to-repay determination. A creditor must maintain written policies and procedures for how it takes into account, pursuant to its underwriting standards, income or assets, debt obligations, alimony, child support, and monthly debt-to-income ratio or residual income in its ability-to-repay determination. A creditor must also retain documentation showing how it took into account income or assets, debt obligations, alimony, child support, and monthly debt-to-income ratio or residual income in its ability-to-repay determination, including how it applied its policies and procedures, in order to meet this requirement to consider and thereby meet the requirements for a qualified mortgage under § 1026.43(e)(2). This documentation may include, for example, an underwriter worksheet or a final automated underwriting system certification, in combination with the creditor’s applicable underwriting standards and any applicable exceptions described in its policies and procedures, that show how these required factors were taken into account in the creditor’s ability-to-repay determination [emphasis added].

The Secondary Market’s Review of Creditors’ Policies and Procedures and File Documentation

The revised rules suggest that, at a minimum, to ensure that the creditor has satisfied the “consider” requirement, a creditor must promulgate and maintain policies and procedures for how it takes into account the underwriting factors enumerated above as well as retain documentation showing how it took these factors into account in its ability-to-repay determination. Ideally, the creditor should make these written policies and procedures available to the creditor’s secondary market counterparties.

Further, and more importantly, the revised rules indicate that the individual loan files should contain a worksheet, Automated Underwriting Systems (AUS) certification, or some other written evidence documenting how the enumerated factors were taken into account in meeting the enhanced ability-to-repay standards. The underwriters should document their use of applicable exceptions to the creditor’s general policies and procedures in underwriting the loan.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is our understanding that compliance with these requirements has been uneven in the industry and that certain creditors have not promulgated the requisite written policies and procedures related to the consideration of income, assets, and debt. In addition, documentation (i.e., worksheets and AUS certifications) of these factors in individual loan files has been haphazard and inconsistent.

In March 2023, the Structured Finance Association convened an ATR/QM Scope of Review Task Force, comprising rating agencies, diligence firms, issuers, and law firms, to develop uniform best practice testing standards for performing due diligence on QM loans. Discussion topics included the documentation of the consider requirement of the revised QM rules.

In its early meetings, the participants in the task force confirmed that creditors have not uniformly developed written policies and procedures documenting the consider requirement. Participants have focused more on the creditor’s actual documentation of income, assets, and debt in individual loan files they believe would demonstrate substantive compliance with the underwriting requirements of the revised rules.

At this early juncture (compliance with the revised rule became mandatory in October 2022), it may be premature for secondary market purchasers of residential mortgage loans to cite their sellers or servicers for substantive noncompliance with the revised QM rules if these entities have not developed robust written policies and procedures that show how they consider income, assets, and debt.

It may be more fruitful for the secondary market to focus on the actual file documentation itself and determine whether the creditors have satisfied the consider requirement by properly underwriting the loans in accordance with the requisite elements and documenting the file with the appropriate worksheets and other written evidence.

The creditor’s failure to maintain the general policies and procedures does not necessarily render the subject loans non-QM if the loan files are adequately underwritten and amply documented. Compliance with the new QM rules and the documentation of the consider requirement is still at a rudimentary stage, and the secondary market will have to periodically revisit the way it audits mortgage loans.

Assumptions on the Rise: Are You Ready for Mortgage Assumptions?

A&B ABstract:

Mortgage assumptions – where a buyer assumes the existing mortgage loan of a seller – have fluctuated in popularity since the 1980s. However, inflation and the high interest rate environment, coupled with an observable shift to a buyer’s market, are raising the prospect that assumable mortgages – especially those with historically low interest rates – are likely to become a selling point for potential sellers. Statements by the real estate broker industry, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and former Ginnie Mae officials, to name a few, corroborate this hunch. Ultimately, given these rumblings, it appears that lenders, and more so mortgage servicers, will need to prepare for a potential increase in mortgage assumption volume. Below are several key considerations with respect to mortgage assumptions.

Servicer Capabilities

Servicers generally will need to diligently evaluate the assuming buyer’s creditworthiness. In certain cases, servicers may need to offer and service home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and second liens to support the cost difference between the amount of the loan to be assumed and the cost of the property. Further, as servicers will likely have to evaluate the assuming consumer’s credit eligibility in connection with the processing of most mortgage assumptions, such activities may give rise to additional state mortgage lender and/or loan originator licensing obligations. While the federal SAFE Mortgage Licensing Act and its implementing Regulation G and H generally do not consider mortgage loan origination activity to encompass a servicer’s activities in connection with the processing of a loan modification, when the borrower is reasonably likely to default, there is no such exemption for mortgage assumptions. Moreover, states that license mortgage loan origination activities may vary as to whether a license is required to process an assumption.

 Investor Restrictions

Even if a buyer is deemed creditworthy to assume the seller’s mortgage payments, the agency or investor backing the seller’s mortgage loan must approve the assumption. Most government-backed mortgage loans, such as those guaranteed or insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are assumable, provided specific requirements are met.  On the other hand, conventional mortgages (i.e., loans meeting the requirements for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the “GSEs”)) may be more difficult to assume.

It is important to note that the requirements for processing and/or approving an assumption vary from agency to agency and among the GSEs. By way of example:

  • FHA loans are assumable if the buyer meets certain credit requirements, according to FHA guidelines. Buyers who assume FHA mortgages pay off the remaining balance at the current rate, and the lender releases the seller from the loan.
  • VA mortgage assumption guidelines are similar to FHA, with some notable differences. The VA or the VA-approved lender must evaluate the creditworthiness of the buyer, who generally must also pay a VA funding fee of 0.5% of the loan balance as of the transfer date. Unlike new loans, buyers can’t finance the funding fee when assuming a loan, it must be paid in cash at the time of transfer. Moreover, the only way the seller can have their VA entitlement restored would be to have the home assumed by a fellow eligible active-duty service member, reservist, veteran, or eligible surviving spouse.
  • USDA permits loan assumptions but operates differently from FHA-insured or VA-guaranteed loans. For example, according to USDA guidelines, when most buyers assume a USDA loan, the lender will generally issue new terms, which may include a new rate.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may permit an assumption under certain circumstances. For example, Fannie Mae may permit the assumption of certain first-lien adjustable-rate mortgage (ARMs) loans that have not been converted to a fixed-rate-mortgage loan.

Due-on-Sale Clauses

Many conventional mortgages today contain “due-on-sale” clauses that authorize a lender, at its option, to declare due and payable sums secured by the lender’s security interest if all or any part of the property, or an interest therein, securing the loan is sold or transferred without the lender’s prior written consent. However, the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act prohibits a lender from exercising its option pursuant to a due-on-sale clause in connection with certain exempt transfers or dispositions, including, among others: (1) a transfer by devise, descent, or operation of law on the death of a joint tenant or tenant by the entirety; (2) a transfer to a relative resulting from the death of a borrower; (3) a transfer where the spouse or children of the borrower become an owner of the property; and (4) a transfer resulting from a decree of a dissolution of marriage, legal separation agreement, or from an incidental property settlement agreement, by which the spouse of the borrower becomes an owner of the property. 12 U.S.C. § 1701j–3(d).


Whether an assumption fee can be charged, and the amount of such fee, will depend on many factors including application of the Garn-St. Germain Act, the CFPB mortgage servicing rules, investor and agency guidelines, and state laws. Further, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) may impact whether a servicer may assess and collect an assumption fee. While most states neither expressly permit nor prohibit assumption fees, several other states, such as Idaho and Michigan, explicitly recognize and permit assumption fees in limited cases (e.g., only where the fee is included in the purchase contract or other agreement). Other states may regulate the amount of an assumption fee. For example, Colorado law limits assumption fees to one-half of 1% of the outstanding principal mortgage amount.

General Federal Consumer Financial Compliance

Assumption transactions also raise compliance considerations under federal consumer financial laws. Under TILA and Regulation Z, an assumption occurs if the transaction meets the following elements: (1) includes the creditor’s express acceptance of the new consumer as a primary obligor; (2) includes the creditor’s express acceptance in a written agreement; and (3) is a “residential mortgage transaction” as to the new consumer. 12 C.F.R. § 1026.20(b). A “residential mortgage transaction” is a transaction: (a) in which a security interest is created or retained in the new consumer’s principal dwelling; and (b) which finances the acquisition or initial construction of the new consumer’s principal dwelling. 12 C.F.R. 1026.2(a)(24). If the transaction is an assumption under Regulation Z (12 C.F.R. § 1026.20(b)), then, as noted by the CFPB in its TILA-RESPA Factsheet, creditors must provide a Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure, unless the transaction is otherwise exempt. Moreover, the assumption transaction may also trigger requirements under Regulation Z’s loan originator compensation and ability-to-repay rules.

With respect to RESPA and Regulation X, however, assumptions are exempt unless the mortgage instruments require lender approval for the assumption and the lender approves the assumption. Specifically, Regulation X expressly exempts from its coverage any “assumption in which the lender does not have the right expressly to approve a subsequent person as the borrower on an existing federally related mortgage loan.” 12 C.F.R. § 1024.5(b)(5). By way of example, the Fannie/Freddie Uniform Security Instrument provides that:

Subject to the provisions of Section 18, any Successor in Interest of Borrower who assumes Borrower’s obligations under this Security Instrument in writing, and is approved by Lender, shall obtain all of Borrower’s rights and obligations under this Security Instrument.  Borrower shall not be released from Borrower’s obligations and liability under this Security Instrument unless Lender agrees to such release in writing.  The covenants and agreements of this Security Instrument shall bind (except as provided in Section 20) and benefit successors of Lender.

Finally, with respect to the CFPB’s Mortgage Servicing Rules, if a successor in interest assumes a mortgage loan obligation under state law or is otherwise liable on the mortgage loan obligation, the protections that the consumer enjoys under Regulation X go beyond the protections that apply to a confirmed successor in interest. 12 C.F.R. § 1024.30(d).


The processing of mortgage assumptions involves many of the same regulatory considerations as originating a new loan. However, because of varying requirements under agency and investor guidelines, there are several unique aspects to processing assumptions, which may pose challenges for servicers that do not regularly engage in mortgage origination. The economic climate appears to be ripe for an uptick in mortgage loan assumption activity. Accordingly, servicers should ensure their compliance management systems are prepared to manage the associated compliance risks.

The QM Patch Is Down for the Count

Whether they realize it or not, absent a last-minute intervention from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), effective July 1, 2021, creditors will no longer be able to originate qualified mortgage loans using the “QM Patch.” The reason for this dramatic event is that on April 8, 2021, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced in separate pronouncements that effective for loans with application dates after June 30, 2021 (for Fannie Mae; for Freddie Mac, applications received on or after July 1, 2021), the loans must conform with the revised qualified mortgage (QM) loan rules—and cannot be QM Patch loans.

Because the FHFA is terminating the QM Patch, loans underwritten to the QM Patch after July 1, 2021 will no longer be eligible for sale to the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), and in effect, the QM Patch disappears after that date. This development contradicts the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) final rulemaking delaying the mandatory effective date of the revised QM rules until October 1, 2022. Under that CFPB rulemaking, during the period between March 1, 2021 and October 1, 2022, the CFPB intends for creditors to have the option of originating QM loans either under the legacy QM rules, including the QM Patch, or the revised QM rules.

In a client advisory, Steve Ornstein parses how the death of the QM Patch will affect creditors seeking to originate residential mortgage loans under Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulations.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Sunset the QM Patch

The qualified mortgage (QM) rules have become a world of contradictions. In a client advisory, our Financial Services & Products Group investigates how the residential mortgage markets can thread the needle between new rulings from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and recent rulings from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

CFPB Delays Implementation of General “QM” Rule, May Jettison the “Seasoned QM” Rule

A&B ABstract

In a statement issued on February 23, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) indicated that it intends to delay the General Qualified Mortgage (“QM”) rule’s mandatory July 1 2021 compliance date, and may amend or revoke the “Seasoned QM Rule” that was supposed to become effective on March 1, 2021.


As we previously reported in this blog, on December 10, 2020, the CFPB issued two significant rulemakings. In the first rulemaking, known as the General QM Rule, CFPB terminated the “QM Patch” and significantly revised the criteria for what constitutes a qualified mortgage (“QM”) loan.  Notably, in this rule, the CFPB replaced the dreaded Appendix Q and strict 43% debt-to-income underwriting threshold with a priced-based QM loan definition.  The rule was to take effect on March 1, 2021, with compliance not mandatory until July 1, 2021.  The QM Patch will expire on the earlier of (i) July 1, 2021 or (ii) the date that the GSEs exit conservatorship.

In the second rulemaking, known as the “Seasoned QM Rule”, the CFPB issued an innovative final rulemaking that creates a pathway to “safe harbor” Qualified Mortgage (QM) status for performing non-QM and “rebuttable presumption” QM loans that meet certain performance criteria portfolio requirements over a seasoning period of at least 36 months and that satisfy certain product restrictions, points and fees limits, and underwriting requirements prior to consummation.  The “Seasoned QM” rule was to become effective with respect to applications received on or after March 1, 2021.

The CFPB’s Intension to Delay Compliance Date of the “QM” Final Rule 

In its statement, the CFPB expects to issue a proposed rulemaking that would delay the July 1, 2021 mandatory compliance date of the General QM Rule ostensibly to “ensure consumers have the options they need during the pandemic … as well as to provide maximum flexibility to the market”.  The impact of this rulemaking is significant because, if implemented, lenders will have the option of originating QM loans under the new General QM Rule standards or alternatively, adhering to the preexisting QM rules, that require, among other things, that the loans be underwritten to Appendix Q with a hard 43% debt-to-income ratio or be eligible for sale to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Notably, the CFPB anticipates that the “QM Patch” will remain in effect until the new mandatory compliance date—unless the GSEs exist conservatorship prior to that date.

Further, the CFPB indicated that at a later date, it may initiate another rulemaking to “reconsider other aspects of the General QM Final Rule”.

The CFPB Will Amend or Reject the “Seasoned QM” Rule

 In its statement, the CFPB ominously noted that it may initiate a new rulemaking to “revisit” the Seasoned QM Rule.  The CFPB indicated that if promulgated, this rulemaking would consider whether “any potential final rule revoking or amending the Seasoned QM Final Rule should affect covered transactions for which an application was received during the period from March 1, 2021, until the effective date of such a final rule”.


The CFPB issued the General QM Rule and the Seasoned QM Rule in the waning days of the Trump Administration, and the Biden CFPB clearly wants to reexamine these rulemakings.  While it is likely that in the short-term, the General QM Rule will be implemented as enacted, albeit with a delayed mandatory compliance date, it is possible that the CFPB could ultimately amend the rule at a later date.  It is also noteworthy that the impact of this delay will be an extension of the controversial “QM Patch”.

By contrast, the CFPB is likely to substantively amend the Seasoned QM Rule or jettison the rulemaking altogether.  In the comments to the final Seasoned QM Rule, consumer groups opposed not only significant aspects of the rule but also the concept of a “Seasoned QM”.  These groups will likely have a sympathetic ear in the Biden CFPB, and hence the rule faces an uncertain fate at best.