The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Friday unveiled a new online search engine that assists consumers with finding local housing counseling agencies to advise them on housing decisions.
Mortgage lenders must provide applicants with a list of local housing counselors under the CFPB’s new mortgage rules set to take effect in January 2014.
“Consumers need and deserve the best guidance when making the decision to purchase a home,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. “Buying a home may easily be the largest investment a consumer makes, and we want to make it easier for them to find a housing counselor that is a good fit for them.”
Housing counselors can advise consumers on home purchases or rentals, foreclosure, defaults and credit issues.
“Housing counselors can offer independent advice, often at little or no cost to consumers,” said the CFPB release.
Some of the tool’s features include a search box and mapping function to show the consumer the ten closest counseling agencies to his or her zip code and a list of the languages each housing counseling agency offers. The tool, housed on the CFPB’s website, is also able to find contact information for HUD-approved counselors and it displays which services are available at each counseling location.
“The Bureau’s 2013 final rule on the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act implemented a requirement of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that lenders provide consumers with a list of homeownership counseling organizations,” said the CFPB.
“Consumers should receive the list shortly after they apply for a mortgage so they know where to get help when deciding what loan is best for them. Lenders may fulfill that requirement by using CFPB-developed housing counseling lists, which are available through today’s tool, or by generating their own lists using the same HUD data that the CFPB uses to build its lists,” CFPB added.
In addition, the CFPB said it recognizes that lenders may be unable to provide the lists in time for the rule’s Jan. 10 effective date.The bureau assured lenders it will not raise any supervisory or enforcement concerns if lenders direct borrowers to the new CFPB tool while building their systems.
A group of 112 Republicans and 6 Democrats wrote a letter to Cordray this week requesting a delay of the mortgage rules set to take effect next year.
“The mortgage rules released in January combined with the amendments released in May and September present financial institutions with over 4,000 pages of new regulations that they must be in compliance by January 2014,” said their letter. “This task is especially difficult for community financial institutions that may only have one or two compliance officers. Furthermore, many financial institutions rely on software systems for managing their operations.”