Wells Fargo distributes new settlement agent communication

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Note: Settlement agents are scheduled to be re-evaluated

Wells Fargo delivered a memo entitled “News for Wells Fargo Settlement Agents” on March 23. The first paragraph cryptically announced that future communications will detail the Uniform Closing Dataset (UCD) that will become effective for lenders in 2018.

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For insight into the UCD, review Fannie Mae’s or Freddie Mac’s websites. Briefly, the UCD is going to be a common industry dataset to allow information on the Closing Disclosure to be communicated electronically. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have developed the UCD at the direction of the Federal Housing Finance Agency in an effort to enhance loan quality and consistency through uniform loan date standards. Stay tuned for more information on this topic and lenders gear up to comply.

The Wells Fargo memo also touted continued expansion of settlement agents who are using Closing Insight™.  Settlement agents who are just getting started were asked to take advantage of the support available at RealEC’s Closing Insight Resource Center at http://www.closinginsightresourcecenter.com or to contact the company at CISupport@realec.com or 800.893.3241. I encourage all South Carolina closing attorneys to get up to speed on this system as soon as possible.

The serious news from Wells Fargo, however, relates to a new effort to evaluate settlement agents.

The memo warned that Wells Fargo will evaluate the population of settlement agents who have closed loans within the past twelve months for problems such as missing documents, execution errors and other frequent problems that require curative work. As a result, settlement agents may receive letters indicating they are being removed from Wells’ list of approved settlement agents.

Processes are in place, however, to accommodate the customer’s choice for a settlement agent who is not on the approved list. Apparently, a new approval process will be instituted, but no detail on this process is provided.

house made of cashThe memo further indicates that attorneys’ ability to act as counsel for customers will not be impacted.  I don’t read this last directive to mean that attorneys who are not on the approved list will be in a position to close loans. They will only be in a position to dispense legal advice, if I am interpreting this correctly.

Settlement agents with questions are encouraged to communicate with Wells at WellsFargoSEttlementAgentCommunicatons@wellsfargo.com. I urge anyone who is interested in continuing to close Wells Fargo loans to hang onto this information.

Finally, the memo is requesting acknowledgement of Master Closing Instructions from all active and approved settlement agencies. Requests for this acknowledgement are coming from Wells Fargo in the form of e-mails to settlement agents. Please respond!

All lenders are beginning to hold settlement agents to higher standards. South Carolina closing attorneys are encouraged to stay abreast of changes and train, train, train staff members.

And, as always, contact your title insurance companies for insight into these matters.

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New Settlement Agent Communication from Wells Fargo

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Seller CD must be provided to Wells prior to disbursement

Wells Fargo communicated with its settlement agents (closing attorneys in South Carolina) by memo dated September 22. In case you missed it, you can read it in its entirety here.

The biggest news is that Wells will now require a copy of the seller Closing Disclosure along with the other documents required prior to disbursement. Apparently, receipt of the seller CD has been a challenge, necessitating the procedural modification.

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Another challenge has been the process for handling changes to the borrower’s CD. The memo stated that any changes known prior to closing, including changes to the closing numbers, the closing date and the disbursement date, must be communicated to the Wells Fargo closer.  Wells Fargo’s closer will provide an updated borrower CD and any other updated documents for closing.

Any changes detected at or post-closing should be communicated to:  SAPostClosingCommunications@wellsfargo.com.

The memo also discussed the phased rollout in progress for delivering training materials and other support for the use of Closing Insight™.  We encourage closing attorneys to read and comply with this information to avoid being left out when this process is fully implemented.

American Land Title Association is Working for Us

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Letter to CFPB asks for clarity.

mountain climbers helping handAmerican Land Title Association’s January issue of TitleNews reports that ALTA reached out to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by letter dated Nov.23, asking for clarity in three areas of the TRID regulations.

The first area of concern is generating a great deal of angst among South Carolina closing attorneys, that is, the attempt by lenders to shift liability to settlement agents for all compliance issues, including compliance with the new federal law.

Here in South Carolina, we are seeing modified closing instructions that explicitly shift this liability to closing attorneys and often include indemnity language. The attorney is being asked to indemnify the lender for the liability the federal law has clearly imposed on lenders.

By the way, I urge South Carolina real estate lawyers to become members of the South Carolina Bar’s Real Estate Section. The Real Estate Section provides its members with access to its Listserv, which can be found at realestatelaw@scbar.org. The forum is a great place for South Carolina real estate lawyers to share ideas and frustrations as well as a place to seek information and advice from peers.

The frustration of real estate lawyers regarding this issue is obvious in that forum. It is a great place for lawyers to share their ideas as well as their frustration.

Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s Executive Director, said in the Nov. 23 letter to the CFPB, “These instructions are in contrast to the clear public policy underpinning this rule, as well as language in the rule stating that lenders bear ultimate liability for errors on the Closing Disclosure form.” According to TitleNews, ALTA provided the CFPB with several examples of the offending closing instructions.

The second area of concern is the disclosure of title insurance premiums on the Closing Disclosure and particularly the very odd negative number that appearing for the cost of owner’s title insurance. The calculation methods of the CFPB seem to be dictating this negative number in many cases, but in what world is that logical? And how does that negative number supply clarity to consumers?

The third and final area of concern expressed ALTA’s Nov. 23 letter is the confusion surrounding seller credits on the Closing Disclosure. Lenders and closing attorneys are struggling with whether to list seller credits as individual line items on the CD or to consolidate them and disclose them under a general “seller credits” heading.

All of us in the industry should be appreciative of ALTA’s efforts to assist in this push for clarity. I urge South Carolina lawyers to join ALTA and to pay attention to and support its efforts in our behalf.

FHA Settlement Certification Will Require Tweaking After October 3

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FHA answers a FAQ; it doesn’t officially change the certification

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released a new settlement certification this summer in anticipation of the implementation of the TRID rules on October 3. The new certification is intended to replace FHA’s current addendum to the HUD-1 Settlement Statement and will be used for the new Closing Disclosures once the TRID rules become effective.

The new certification reads:

“To the best of my knowledge, the Closing Disclosure which I have prepared is a true and accurate account of the funds which were (i) received, or (ii) paid outside closing, and the funds received have been or will be disbursed by the undersigned as part of the settlement of this transaction. I further certify that I have obtained the above certifications which were executed by the borrower(s) and seller(s) as indicated.”

Please note that the new certification contains the language “which I have prepared”.  As we have all heard by now, many of the large lenders have indicated that settlement agents will not prepare the Closing Disclosures to be delivered to borrowers. Because of the perceived liability, several of the larger lenders have announced that they will prepare the deliver borrowers’ Closing Disclosures.

frustrated man paperworkSettlement agents (closing attorneys in South Carolina) will prepare and deliver sellers’ Closing Disclosures in all cases and will prepare the borrowers’ forms for the smaller lenders who are not taking the responsibility internally.

American Land Title Association reached out to FHA, the Mortgage Bankers Association and individual lenders to inform them that the new certification would be inaccurate in the cases where the lender prepares the Closing Disclosure.  FHA did not revise its certification, but, in connection with issuing an additional 120 new FAQs to its Single-Family Handbook Frequently Asked Questions, it answered the following question this month:

FAQ 347:

Q: “The Model Settlement Certification requires the Settlement Agent certifying that he or she has prepared the Closing Disclosure but the CFPB’s requirements for issuing the new TRID Closing Disclosure will make this unlikely to be the case. Should the Settlement Agent sign the form anyway?”

A: “FHA does not wish for anyone to make a false certification. Because this is a model component, FHA will accept the tailoring of this phrase to the actual circumstances. This if the Settlement Agent does not prepare the closing disclosure, he or she should remove or strike through the statement ‘which I have prepared’ before executing the Settlement Certification.

FHA is only providing this guidance through the FAQ. It is neither revising the certification nor clarifying the instructions on the certification itself.  As a result, closing attorneys will be required to educate their staff members about the necessity to revise the certification for FHA closings after the new rules take effect.