Alston & Bird Consumer Finance Blog

State Law

Iowa Adopts Mortgage Servicer Prudential Standards

What Happened?

Effective July 1, Iowa House File 2392 (the “Iowa Law”) enacts mortgage servicer prudential standards (codified in Chapter 535B of the Iowa Code) that largely follow those promoted by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (“CSBS”).

As we have previously reported, the CSBS adopted model “State Regulatory Prudential Standards for Nonbank Mortgage Servicers” (the “CSBS Standards”) in 2021.  The CSBS Standards address financial condition and corporate governance requirements for certain mortgage servicers.

Why Is It Important?

Following the CSBS Standards, the Iowa Law’s requirements apply to a “covered institution.”  A “covered institution” services or subservices at least 2,000 residential mortgage loans (excluding whole loans owned and loans being interim serviced prior to sale) as of the most recent calendar year end as reported on the NMLS mortgage call report.  For entities within a holding company or an affiliated group of companies, the Iowa Law’s requirements apply at the covered institution level.

Financial Condition:

The Iowa Law requires a covered institution to meet specified financial condition standards. First, a covered institution must maintain capital and liquidity as set forth in new Section 535B.24.  Second, a covered institution must maintain written policies and procedures necessary to implement that section’s capital, operating liquidity, servicing liquidity requirements.

Third, a covered institution must maintain sufficient allowable assets for operating liquidity, in addition to amounts required for servicing liquidity.  Fourth, a covered institution must develop, establish, and implement written plans, policies and procedures, utilizing sustainable documented methodologies to maintain operating liquidity.  Finally, a covered institution must have a sound written cash management plan and a sound written business operating plan (commensurate with the entity’s complexity) that ensures normal business operations.

The financial condition standards do not apply to servicers that solely own or conduct servicing on reverse annuity mortgage loans, or to a covered institution’s  reverse annuity mortgage loan portfolio.

Corporate Governance:

The Iowa Law also requires a covered institution to comply with enumerated corporate governance requirements. First, a covered institution must establish and maintain a board of directors (or equivalent body).  The board’s responsibilities include: (a) establishing a written corporate governance framework that includes appropriate internal controls to monitor and assessing compliance with the corporate governance framework; (b)  monitoring and ensuring that the covered institution complies with the corporate governance framework and with the Iowa Law’s requirements; and (c) ensuring that the covered institution establishes and maintains a risk management program that identifies, measures, monitors, and controls risk commensurate with the covered institution’s size and complexity.

Second, new Section 535B.25 enumerates criteria for a covered institution’s risk management program (to include addressing the potential that a borrower or counterparty fails to perform on an obligation). Third, the Iowa Law requires a covered institution to undergo an annual external audit (including an evaluation of the entity’s internal control structure, a review of the entity’s annual financial statements of the company, and a computation of the entity’s tangible net worth).

Fourth, the Iowa law requires a covered institution to conduct an annual risk management assessment that concludes with a formal report to the board of directors. The risk management assessment must include findings and action taken to address each issue. Additionally, a covered institution must maintain ongoing documentation of risk management activities and include the documentation in its risk management assessment.

What Do I Need to Do?

Mortgage servicers subject to the Iowa Law should review the new standards and ensure that their business practices are compliant.  We will continue to monitor other states for adoption of their own versions of the CSBS Standards.

Fannie Mae Issues Guidance in Response to New York Foreclosure Abuse Prevention Act

What Happened?

On March 13, 2024, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement (SVC-2024-02) (the “Announcement”), which announced, among other things, updates to Fannie Mae’s Loan Modification Agreement (Form 3179), with additional instructions in response to the New York Foreclosure Abuse Prevention Act (“FAPA”). Specifically, for all Loan Modification Agreements (Form 3179) sent to a borrower for signature on or after July 1, 2024, servicers are required to amend the modification agreement to insert the following as new paragraphs 5(e) and (f) for a mortgage loan secured by a property in New York:

(e) Borrower promises to pay the debt evidenced by the Note and Security Instrument.  Further, Borrower acknowledges and agrees that any election by Lender to accelerate the debt evidenced by the Note and Security Instrument and the requirement by Lender of immediate payment in full thereunder is revoked upon the first payment made under the Agreement; and, the Note and Security Instrument, as amended by the Agreement, are returned to installment status and the obligations under the Note and Security Instrument remain fully effective as if no acceleration had occurred.

(f) Borrower further agrees to execute or cause to be executed by counsel, if applicable, a stipulation (to be filed with the court in the foreclosure action), that the Lender’s election to accelerate the debt evidenced by the Note and Security Instrument and requirement of immediate payment in full thereunder is revoked upon the first payment made under the Agreement and the debt evidenced by the Note and Security Instrument is deaccelerated at that time pursuant to New York General Obligations Law § 17-105, or other applicable law.

Fannie Mae encourages servicers to implement these changes immediately but requires that servicers do so for all modification agreements sent to the borrower for signature on and after July 1, 2024. Freddie Mac does not yet appear to have issued similar guidance.

Why Is It Important?

As we previously discussed in a prior blog post, FAPA reversed judicial precedent that permitted a lender, after default, to unilaterally undo the acceleration of a mortgage and stop the running of the statute of limitations in a foreclosure action through voluntary dismissal, discontinuance of foreclosure actions, or de-acceleration letters. For more than a year following FAPA’s enactment, the mortgage industry has grappled with how to address certain of the risks created by FAPA, including whether certain language could be adopted and incorporated into servicers’ loss mitigation documents to mitigate FAPA risk.

Fannie Mae’s Announcement is significant because it represents the first piece of guidance from a federal agency or government-sponsored enterprise (i.e., Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) that provides some clarity as to what language may be appropriate to mitigate certain of the risks engendered by the New York FAPA.

What Do I Need to Do?

Servicers of Fannie Mae-backed mortgage loans (secured by property in New York) should evaluate their loss mitigation processes and make appropriate updates to ensure compliance with the Announcement.  Servicers should also continue to monitor for additional guidance or caselaw as this issue remains in flux.

Appraisal Bias Focus Continues in 2024

What Happened?

Building on the 2021 announcement of the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (“PAVE”) and a series of federal agency actions in the intervening months, 2024 brings new efforts at the state and federal levels to address appraisal bias and promote fair valuations.  Notably, a new version of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (“USPAP”) is in effect, prohibiting discrimination.

Why Is It Important?


As of January 1, the amended USPAP (the operational standards that govern real property appraisal practice) includes updates to the Ethics Rule that expressly prohibit appraisers from engaging in both unethical discrimination and illegal discrimination.  An appraiser cannot engage in illegal discrimination, which includes acting in a manner that violates or contributes to a violation of applicable anti-discrimination laws or regulations, including, but not limited to, the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”), and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

The prohibition also encompasses unethical discrimination – developing an opinion of value based or with bias with respect on an actual or perceived protected characteristic of any person, “upon the premise that homogeneity of the inhabitants of a geographic area is relevant for the appraisal,” or using a characteristic to attempt to conceal a bias in the performance of an appraisal assignment.

OCC Hearing on Appraisal Bias:

On February 13, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) held the fourth of the Appraisal Subcommittee’s public hearing on appraisal bias.  Representatives of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (“FFIEC”) regulatory agencies (the Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, National Credit Union Administration, and OCC), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Housing Financial Agency took questions from individuals speaking on behalf of the Appraisal Foundation, the Mississippi and Texas state appraiser regulatory boards, and the appraisal profession.

The discussion focused on efforts to combat appraisal bias, including through diversification of the appraisal profession.

FFIEC Statement on Valuation Bias:

On February 14, the FFIEC on behalf of its member entities outlined consumer compliance and safety and soundness examination principles to “promote credible appraisals” and mitigate risk from valuation practices due to potential discrimination. Through this guidance, the FFIEC encourages institutions to establish a formal valuation program “to identify noncompliance with appraisal regulations, USPAP, inaccuracies, or poorly supported valuations.”

The guidance identifies: (a) ECOA, the FHA, the Truth in Lending Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act as the applicable consumer protection laws; and (b) Title XI of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 and USPAP as safety and soundness requirements.

Under the guidance, the consumer compliance examination principles focus primarily on compliance with consumer protection requirements and prohibitions on discrimination relating to valuation practices.  The FFIEC designed these principles to ensure that an institution’s board and management oversight, third party risk management and compliance management program (including policies and procedures, training, monitoring and/or audit, and consumer complaint handling) are commensurate with the size of the institution and appropriate to identify potentially discriminatory valuation practices or results.

Similarly, the FFIEC’s safety and soundness examination principles focus on financial condition and operations relating to the review and assessment of an “institution’s practices for identifying, monitoring and controlling the risk of valuation discrimination or bias.” Such assessments are similar to the consumer compliance examination principles, but also include an evaluation of the collateral valuation program and valuation review function, credit risk review function, and consideration of materiality in relation to the institution’s overall lending activities.

New Jersey Anti-Discrimination Initiative

Following other states (such as Texas) that have stepped up anti-discrimination efforts, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and Division on Civil Rights provided guidance on their enforcement of the state’s Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) in home appraisals.

The guidance clarifies that LAD applies not only to appraisers, but also to “’any person’ who is involved in the ‘furnishing of facilities or services’ or ‘involved in the making or purchasing of any loan or extension of credit,” and thus encompasses bank and non-bank mortgage lenders, appraisal management companies (“AMCs”), insurance companies, and others.

The guidance also expressly prohibits subject individuals and entities from: (a) engaging in disparate treatment of individuals (e.g., borrowers) based on protected characteristics; (b) maintaining policies or practices that have unlawful disparate impacts; or (c) submitting or relying on an appraisal that is known (or should be known) to be discriminatory.

What Do I Need to Do?

While the above actions will impact lenders, appraisers, and AMCs differently, overall they indicate regulators’ continued (and increased) attention to fair valuations matters.  Lenders and AMCs should ensure that their in-house appraisal processes prohibit engagement in discriminatory valuations, their compliance management programs are well documented and working appropriately, and that they have escalation processes in place to address any alleged issues that may arise.  (We routinely provide compliance management system readiness reviews.)  Appraisers need to keep abreast not only of the new USPAP requirements, but also of changes to state continuing education requirements that implicate fair valuations.

A Friendly Reminder of the Importance of Robust Consumer Complaint Handling Processes

What Happened?

On February 27, 2024, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (the Department) entered into a public consent order with a company that provides consumer financial services to California residents. The consent order alleges that between January 2020 and September 2022, the Department received complaints from consumers raising concerns about their accounts and customer service interactions with the company, which the Department forwarded to the company for investigation and response. The Department also investigated the company’s handling of those consumer complaints.

The Department found that the company’s complaint handling was deficient in that “occasional mistakes” that occurred in the Company’s responsiveness to consumer complaints were substantial enough to have violated the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL). The Department alleged that as between the company and the consumer, the company was in the better position to accurately evaluate the available information in most cases and to respond to consumers’ complaints in a timely manner and while the number of mistakes during the Department’s investigation period was relatively small in comparison to the overall number of consumer complaints received, the Department concluded that the mistakes were important to the affected consumers.

To resolve these allegations, the company agreed to (1) desist and refrain from violating the CCFPL through its complaint handling processes, (2) pay a penalty of $ 2.5 million, (3) enhance existing customer service procedures or processes, (4) establish, implement, enhance, and maintain testing policies, procedures, and standards reasonably designed to, at a minimum, ensure compliance with the law, and (5) report to the Department annually for two years on these standards. These standards require the company to:

  • Ensure customer service support 24 hours a day, seven days a week;
  • Ensure sufficient customer service support staffing;
  • Ensure sufficient customer service support training; and
  • Investigate and implement policies and procedures to maintain the accurate, prompt and proper handling of consumer complaints.

Why is it Important?

The CCFPL was enacted in September 2020 and grants the Department expanded authority over persons engaged in offering or providing a consumer financial product or service in California and their affiliated service providers. Notably, under the CCFPL, it is unlawful for a “covered person” or “service provider,” to do any of the following:

  • Engage, have engaged, or propose to engage in any unlawful, unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice (UDAAP) with respect to consumer financial products or services.
  • Offer or provide to a consumer any financial product or service not in conformity with any consumer financial law or otherwise commit any act or omission in violation of a consumer financial law.
  • Fail or refuse, as required by a consumer financial law or any rule or order issued by the Department thereunder, to do any of the following:
    • Permit the Department access to or copying of records.
    • Establish or maintain records.
    • Make reports or provide information to the Department.

The CCFPL defines a “covered person” to mean, to the extent not preempted by federal law, any of the following:

  • Any person that engages in offering or providing a consumer financial product or service to a resident of California.
  • Any affiliate of a person described above if the affiliate acts as a service provider to the person.
  • Any service provider to the extent that the person engages in the offering or provision of its own consumer financial product or service.

A “servicer provider” includes any person that provides a material service to a covered person in connection with the offering or provision by that covered person of a consumer financial product or service, including a person that either:

  • Participates in designing, operating, or maintaining the consumer financial product or service.
  • Processes transactions relating to the consumer financial product or service, other than unknowingly or incidentally transmitting or processing financial data in a manner that the data is undifferentiated from other types of data of the same form as the person transmits or processes.

The term “service provider” does not include a person solely by virtue of that person offering or providing to a covered person either a support service of a type provided to businesses generally or a similar ministerial service, or time or space for an advertisement for a consumer financial product or service through print, newspaper, or electronic media.

Notwithstanding the broad definition of “covered person,” the CCFPL contains numerous exemptions, including for banks; licensed escrow agents; licensees under the California Financing Law; licensed broker-dealers or investment advisers; licensees under the Residential Mortgage Lending Act; licensed check sellers, bill payers, or proraters; and licensed money transmitters, among others.

The Department is authorized to impose civil money penalties for any violation of the CCFPL, rule or final order, or condition imposed in writing by the Department in an amount not to exceed the greater of $5,000 for each day during which a violation or failure to pay continues, or $2,500 for each act or omission. Reckless violations are subject to increased penalties not to exceed the greater of $25,000 for each day during which the violation continues, or $10,000 for each act or omission. For knowing violations, the Department is authorized to assess penalties not to exceed the lesser of one percent of the person’s total assets, $1 million for each day during which the violation continues, or $25,000 for each act or omission.

What Do You Need to Do?

It is always important to take consumer complaints seriously and to respond timely and accurately. Now is the time to review your company’s complaint management procedures to make sure they are robust. It is always important to mine your consumer complaints so that you can learn from them and correct errors timely to ensure mistakes don’t recur, and the Department’s latest settlement is a reminder that companies subject to the CCFPL also have a legal obligation to do so.

New Florida Law Restricts Foreign Nationals’ Land Ownership

What Happened?

In a development that is becoming a trend in state legislatures, effective July 1, 2023, the Florida Senate passed a bill that restricts certain foreign nationals from acquiring property in the state.

Why Is It Important?

Florida Senate Bill 264 (“SB 264”), codified at Florida Statutes 692.201-204, restricts the conveyance of real property in Florida to individuals and entities associated with certain foreign countries.  Notably, subject to limited exceptions, it prohibits the sale of any real property to Chinese nationals.

SB 264, which became effective on July 1, 2023, contains three primary components prohibiting the conveyance of real property in Florida.  First, subject to limited exceptions, SB 264 prohibits individuals and entities designated as “foreign principals,” from “foreign countries of concern,” from acquiring agricultural land in Florida.  The impacted countries are the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro, and the Syrian Arab Republic.

Second, SB 264 prohibits foreign principals from owning or acquiring any interest in real property within 10 miles of any military installation or critical infrastructure in the state.  Third, subject to limited exceptions, SB 264 prohibits Chinese entities and nationals who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. from purchasing or acquiring any interest in real property in the state.

Notable Exceptions

SB 264 contains notable exceptions. First, foreign principals and Chinese nationals may continue to own real property acquired before the July 1, 2023 effective date; however, they had until January 1, 2024 to register the property ownership by with the designated Florida regulatory authority.  Second, a foreign principal or Chinese national may purchase up to one residential real property not exceeding two acres, as long as the parcel is not within five miles of any military installation.

SB 264 also creates exceptions for ownership through a publicly traded company that is either: (a) less than 5% interest, or (b) is a non-controlling interest in an entity controlled by a non-foreign entity registered with the SEC as an investment adviser.  Further, the legislation permits a “foreign principal” to acquire interest by devise or descent, enforcement of security interests, or collection of debt on or after July 1, 2023; however, the party must sell the property within three years of acquisition.


SB 264 requires the buyer of real property to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury to his/her compliance with the law.  While a failure to obtain or maintain the affidavit does not affect the title or insurability of the title for the real property, SB 264 provides that “if any real property is owned or acquired in violation of this section, the real property may be forfeited to the state.“ Further, a foreign principal that fails to timely file a registration is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for each day that the registration is late.

Clarifying Regulations

SB 264 is self-implementing, but the legislation requires certain Florida regulatory agencies to adopt rules to implement certain sections of the legislation. On September 20, 2023, the Florida Department of Commerce released its initial set of proposed rules for implementing SB 264.   Shortly thereafter, the Florida Real Estate Commission followed suit with proposed rules containing the form buyer’s affidavits. Further, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is drafting rules related to the interests of foreign ownership of agricultural land in Florida.

What Do You Need to Know?

In May 2023, litigation challenging the constitutionality of the legislation was brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.  The plaintiffs contend that SB 264 violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses, the Supremacy Clause, and the Fair Housing Act.  It is unclear whether this and other possible litigation challenging the enforceability of the law will be meritorious.

In addition to Florida, nearly 20 other states (including Missouri ,Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin) have adopted or are considering foreign ownership restrictions which are similar but generally less onerous.