New mortgage rules protect against risky loans

Lenders now required to make sure borrowers can repay mortgage over the long term

Good news for people shopping for a mortgage and for current homeowners facing foreclosure because they can no longer afford their home loan.

New mortgage regulations drafted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently took effect and they provide a slew of new rights and protections for consumers.

One of the cornerstones of the new mortgage rules is that lenders now are required to evaluate whether borrowers can afford to repay a mortgage over the long term, that is, after the initial teaser rate has expired. Otherwise, the loan won't be considered what's now referred to as a "qualified mortgage."

Qualified mortgages are designed to help protect consumers from the kinds of risky loans that brought the housing market to its knees back in 2008. But obtaining that designation is also important to lenders because it will help protect them from lawsuits by borrowers who later prove unable to pay off their loans.

Under the new ability-to-pay rules, lenders now must assess and document multiple components of the borrower's financial state before offering a mortgage, including the borrower's income, savings and other assets, debt, employment status and credit history, as well as other anticipated mortgage-related costs.

Qualified mortgages must meet the following guidelines:

• The term can't be longer than 30 years.

• Interest-only, negative amortization and balloon-payment loans aren't allowed.

• Loans over $100,000 can't have upfront points and fees that exceed 3 percent of the total loan amount.

If the loan has an adjustable interest rate, the lender must ensure that the borrower qualifies at the fully indexed rate (the highest rate to which it might climb), versus the initial teaser rate.

Generally, borrowers must have a total monthly debt-to-income ratio of 43% or less.

Loans that are eligible to be bought, guaranteed or insured by government agencies, such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration, are considered qualified mortgages until at least 2021, even if they don't meet all QM requirements.

Lenders may still issue mortgages that aren't qualified, provided they reasonably believe borrowers can repay and have documentation to back up that assessment.

New, tougher regulations also apply to mortgage servicers, the companies responsible for collecting payments and managing customer service for the loan owners. For example, they now must:

• Send borrowers clear monthly statements that show how payments are being credited, including a breakdown of payments by principal, interest, fees and escrow.

• Fix mistakes and respond to borrower inquiries promptly.

• Credit payments on the date received.

• Provide early notice to borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages when their rate is about to change.

• Contact most borrowers by the time they are 36 days late with their payment.

• Inform borrowers who fall behind on mortgage payments of all available alternatives to foreclosure (e.g., payment deferment or loan modification).

With limited exceptions, mortgage servicers now cannot initiate foreclosures until borrowers are more than 120 days delinquent (allowing time to apply for a loan modification or other alternative); start foreclosure proceedings while also working with a homeowner who has already submitted a complete application for help, or hold a foreclosure sale until all other alternatives have been considered.

For more details on the new mortgage rules, visit

Bottom line: You should never enter into a mortgage (or other loan) you can't understand or afford. But it's nice to know that stronger regulations are now in place to help prevent another housing meltdown.


Jason Alderman directs Visa's financial education programs. To participate in a free, online Financial Literacy and Education Summit on April 2, 2014, go to


Like this comment
Posted by younoborrowanymore
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 17, 2014 at 10:34 am

The intension to prevent bad debt is of course good...implementation, well, could be a bigger problem than one might think. Imagine banks/lenders being MORE onerous about qualifying borrowers - somehow estimating in today's economy how say a young couple starting out in their mid-to-late 20's will be able to repay a loan over the course of 30 years. Gotta crystal ball? This could derail a lot of sales as people walk away from purchases - esp in the fragile Cali real estate market where only the wealthy can own a property. Good luck to us all.

Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2014 at 10:52 am

LOL !! If you're 60 or older you can't get a loan!!

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Mar 17, 2014 at 11:33 am

Haven't heard about redlining lately have we. Give it another 5-10 years, and we'll collectively forget that the government is imposing these restrictions.

Like this comment
Posted by I pay my debts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2014 at 1:49 pm

How about holding people responsible for actually paying the loans that they agreed to pay? Instead of letting them off without any tax consequences for all of the forgiven debt. People who lost jobs, etc, have my sympathy. Those who were just greedy and stupid do not. And the greediest of all were the realtors who collected their commissions and the loan brokers who signed off those loans while getting their fat commissions too.

Like this comment
Posted by Bug Splat
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 9:58 am

As usual, when the pendulum swings it often swings too far the other way. As well intentioned as this may be it will have some negative consequences. As stated by Citizen, people that are retired are going to be hosed. They may legitimately normally be qualified for a mortgage and benefit from the interest deductions on their taxes, but they will now not be able to get that mortgage. The other consequence is it is going to have a very negative effect in places like most of California that have very high housing costs.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Last I heard the word is still spelled intention and not "instension"...BUSTED!

Like this comment
Posted by Jull
a resident of Ironwood
on Jul 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm

On the one hand easier said than done on the other if implemented it will help avoid one more bubble to burst and save many of the families from the debt trap. I know many of the families even nowadays, who have to borrow money from the services like this Web Link to cover their monthly mortgage payments.

Like this comment
Posted by Senior
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Lenders (banks) may still make loans that are less than 'qualified. It will make it more difficult for many seniors to make relocations. There are a fair number of people who live off 'investments', i.e.stock dividends, interest, and rentals. This could boomerang on the rental market if 'investor' loans are tightened. A lot would have to do with 'down payment' equity. Really need 2 good jobs, but will 'cut into' those recent grads who are already financing the setting up of new professional practices i.e. dentists/docs. But it would be nice to have fewer ambulance chasing layers trying to drum up business!! This will be tougher on younger applicants...maybe now they'll have to start out in 'starter' homes, like we've been doing for generations... upgrade as their station in life upgrades. And, they'll have to 'plan' pregnancies like they should be doing anyway...each step as you can afford. Planning like a 'responsible' adult is a good thing, otherwise, suffer the consequences.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 19, 2014 at 11:41 am

seems to me you gotta be waaaaay dum not to consult with a savy attorney when borrowing waaaaaaaaaay large sums of money and i mean it...

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